By Dr. Varun Goel, Oncology,
Skin cancers are one of the most common cancers occurring among people across the world. They are generally caused by UV and UB rays of the sun that result in mutations of DNA of the epidermis (outer layer) of the skin.
The three major types of skin cancer are-basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The first two variants, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, affects the skin cells of the body but melanoma affects the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes and is less common and also more fatal than the other two. This has led to formation of certain myths surrounding skin cancer that people believe in as truth. This article is here to debunk the most common skin cancer myths–
#1 People who are engaged in outdoor activities are more prone to skin cancer-
A number of people are of the opinion that brief exposure to the sun while driving your car to the nearest grocery store, taking your dog out for a walk or simply soaking in the sunlight sitting at the balcony, will not result in skin cancer. Nothing can be further from the truth. Your skin gets exposed to the harmful UV rays of the sun and these brief exposures can add up to significant damages resulting in squamous or basal cell carcinoma.
#2 Tanning beds are safer than ultraviolet rays-
UV rays, the chief cause of skin cancer, are also present in tanning beds. These UV radiations leads to wrinkles, sun spots and freckles in individuals. Often, they lead to melanoma which can be fatal. Therefore, it’s better to have no tan at all than to increase your chance of getting skin cancer by using tanning beds.
#3 Sunscreen is enough to protect to your skin from sun rays-
Dermatologists and makeup experts stress on the fact that putting on sunscreen before going out helps in protecting our skin from getting damaged. However, it does not guarantee that you will not get skin cancer at all. You have to choose a sunscreen that has broad spectrum meaning SPF 30 to SPF 50 and should reapply your sunscreen every two hours because the effectiveness of the sunscreen diminishes after that. If you fail to do so religiously, the sunscreen fails to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays. Try to use water-resistant sunscreen along with wearing protective clothing to shield your skin from the sun.
#4 It is essential to get your vitamin D by going out in the sun without a sunscreen-
Vitamin D is an essential component in our body that is required for strong and healthy bones. However, getting your daily dose of vitamin D should not make it riskier for you to contract skin cancer. There are other ways to get your daily dose of vitamin D like taking vitamin D supplements and eating vitamin-fortified foods such as milk and cereal.
#5 Dark-skinned men and women are not at risk of getting skin cancer-
Although dark-skinned people are at much less risk of getting skin cancer compared to fair skinned people, this does not make them immune to the harmful UV and UB rays of the sun. They should also take necessary precautions like using a sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and others to avoid getting skin cancer.
However, if you still get skin cancer or have a mole on any part of your skin your, it’s best to get it checked out without any delay. Early detection and treatment are the best ways to deal with skin cancers.