Are Six Misconceptions About Skin Cancer tripping you up for problems in the future? ( Updated 1 27 23)
Do you find yourself believing some of these six misconceptions about skin cancer? Even now, with all that we know about preventing skin cancer, most people think they are in no danger.
Most people even believe that preventing skin cancer is not something they need to worry about!
Everyone thinks “it won’t happen to me.” Until it does. Then you become very aware of why you need to protect your skin from the sun and help prevent skin cancer.
If you allow yourself to live with the mindset that “it won’t happen to me” you may find yourself led astray. Will you let your self-talk encourage you to ignore the importance of sun blocking clothing in your plan for a day in the sun?
Check out these ideas that help to spread the misconception of what we can do to help prevent skin cancer for yourself.
1. It Won’t Happen To Me
You may well be the one that skin cancer doesn’t happen to. But first, some ideas for you to think about. Some numbers that may surprise you.
At least 20% of the people in the USA will develop skin cancer in their lives. Here are some of the conditions that could help put you in that portion of the population:
- Are you redheaded?
- Do you have light-toned skin?
- Is your hair blonde or strawberry blonde?
- How many freckles do you have?
- What is your eye color, blue, green, or grey?
- How tall are you?
- Have you already sunburned as a child?
- What sports did you play as a child?
- Which do you enjoy doing now that would have you outside between 10 AM and 4 PM?
- Did you move from the north part of the US to the south?
- How much time do you spend in your vehicle during the dangerous hours of 10 AM until 4 PM?
- Have you ever worked where you would be exposed to the sun during the 10 AM and 4 PM times?
- Have you developed auto-immune issues of any kind?
- Do you have really bad allergies?
I am sure there are other factors that would predispose you to quickly get in trouble with too much sun.
2. My Story
I lived on a farm as a child and helped when I could. Dad wasn’t one for child labor, so we were not in the field’s unbearable hours. My brother did drive a tractor, while I did little of that because in Dad’s mind that was a guy’s work, not a girl’s.
We were exposed to the sun and sunburned on occasion. I had long sleeves to wear, and a wide-brimmed hat and often wore them, but there were times I didn’t.
Like most, I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with skin cancer. Time proved me wrong. At the ripe old age of 24, I had my first discolored place that covered about a quarter of my right cheek removed. This damage was caused by too many hours in the sun, a lot of those hours as a passenger in a vehicle.
Since that time, I have had other precancerous spots as well as some that were already basal cell carcinoma stage. So my words of warning come from some experience.
While these are the first stages of skin cancer, they have made me aware. I don’t have many scars, but my kids do. As young adults, they are already in the dermatologist’s office much more often than I was at that time in my life.
3. Skin Cancer Is No Big Deal, Anyway
Some people tell themselves this all the time, “skin cancer is no big deal.” And in comparison to internal cancer like lung cancer, it may seem unimportant. Just a small thing.
This is not true! Skin cancer rarely causes death as quickly as lung cancer. Because it is on your skin, you can see the damage as it occurs. Not like your lungs that require seeing inside your body.
The damage can be seen as it begins to happen. If you could see what was happening to your lungs when lung cancer is present, you would seek help quickly as well.
So, just because it doesn’t usually take your life, it can be fatal if not treated.
If the spot is ignored and the wound grows to your bone, it can be life-threatening. Like any ignored wound, skin cancer can develop from an easy-to-treat and eliminate issue to a serious one quickly.
What Is Skin Cancer
Let’s think a moment about what skin cancer actually is. Skin cancer is uncontrolled skin cell growth that no longer works properly.
It is an area on your skin where you have had some kind of damage that the DNA of the skin cells is damaged. This damage is usually sun exposure, but not always.
The master plan that your body uses to heal itself, in this case, to make a new cell no longer works correctly. That cell can repair itself, but it won’t look like the one that was damaged. The growth pattern is no longer clear and will not be exactly like the one before it.
Your Skin Protection
Your cell is trying to regrow to protect the spot on your skin it was designed to protect. Without the correct and healthy DNA, it will not reproduce properly and replace itself as it should.
It may be a raised place on your skin surface, it may become pinker than the rest. It may be flakey and dry. Or may not be able to cover the area, and allow a raw sore to develop.
There are many ways that cancer cells grow. If the spot is not removed, it may continue to grow and reproduce incorrectly. Your body works overtime to take care of the body that your skin sack was programmed to protect.
Any number of situations can quickly make this worse. When people wore watches, often this area would be the first to sunburn if exposed without the watch.
Questions About Your Skin And The Sun
Was that strip of skin damaged from wearing something so long in the same place, like a watch or ring?
Or did that thin little band sunburn faster? That is where my first actual skin cancer was discovered.
Don’t disregard skin cancer as unimportant. If neglected it can quickly cause scarring damage and if ignored too long, bone loss.
Reader, please, if you have questions about spots on your skin, get them checked out. Don’t think it is important. It most surely is.
A dangerous misconception is that it will be ok! Hopefully, this is true, but like me, you may not heal.
4. Skin Cancer Is Not A Concern For People Who Have Darker Pigment In Their Skin
Skin cancer is definately a concern for people with darker-pigmented skin color. The pigment already in your skin is there to protect your body from the sun.
We all know that years of sun exposure will eventually produce a darker tone on your skin. Your skin is producing melanin to protect the body under your skin, or your skin sack.
Wikipedia: My version of what they say
Human skin color exists in many tones, from the deepest brown to the palest.
Individual skin pigmentation is from our genetics and/or being in the sun.
Skin color for humans is affected by many substances. The most important is the pigment melanin.
Melanin is produced within our skin cells called melanocytes.
Protection Is Important.
A darker skin tone may take longer to get to the sunburn danger point in sun exposure, but you are not as protected as you may think.
In fact with darker-skinned patients, Melanoma, the most lethal of all skin cancers is usually not diagnosed as early as in patients with lighter tone skin color.
Without the ability to see the contrast in skin color, it is more difficult to notice. For people of all skin tones, too much sun can cause your body harm. Don’t think you get off-free because you are blessed with darker-toned skin.
Use Sun Protection
Darker-skinned individuals should take precautions as well. Wear sun blocking clothing and sunscreen too. Avoid direct sunray hours between 10 AM and 4 PM
This is a common misconception we get from darker tone skin people and people of color all the time. Helping a person with darker natural tones in their skin presents issues as they don’t understand the need to limit the sun on their skin. It’s a very common and dangerous misconception that there is no need to use sunscreen.
Too often the sunscreen conversation with people with dark skin type prompts the response that “Black don’t crack” or some version of this well-known phrase. This is such a dangerous misconception.
This lack of awareness is not only within the Black population but also stems from the medical community itself.
Unfortunately, the data backs up this disparity: A 2014 study found that Black people received prescribed sunscreen after ER (visits for sunburn treatment) visits roughly 9 times less than their white counterparts.
Some medical conditions (like. lupus) flare with sunlight and are more common in darker skin types. You must be careful and protect your skin from the sun with sun blocking clothing and sunscreen application. Staying out of the sun in the central part of the day.
Lifestyle choices can have good solutions as well. You can learn to make better decisions. Don’t think that you can continue to ignore your skin and not have consequences.
5. Skin Cancer Only Happens When You Get Older, Doesn’t It?
Yes, skin cancer is usually the result of repeated damage.
It does usually show up as you get older. You get by with being out in the direct sun for years. Then one day the funny-looking spot appears. My last one was on my forehead, on the left side just at the hairline. At least that is the one that got me to the dermatologist.
The one on my hand was the one that required a biopsy and removal. The one on my forward was just a patch of skin like a big flat mole. “It is just skin that got dry but didn’t flake off.” He explained that “sometimes the skin just doesn’t flake off as it should.”
Obviously, sun-damaged cells were making the skin reproduce rapidly. My DNA has been affected!
The rapid over-reproduction is what caused the build-up. Otherwise, the dead cells would flake off. He used liquid nitrogen to freeze it. It peeled off in a short few days. At that time it looked like a dried old scab, about the size of a half-dollar on my forehead. That is a good-sized mole-looking spot on my forehead! I was grateful to see it go away.
But, skin cancer can happen in your teen years, or earlier!
Damage Starts Early In Life
There are reports of young kids starting while very young by having basal cell carcinoma cancers. And other treatments including melanoma. They are not immune to this form of cancer. Young children need your help to learn to start protecting their skin from the sun.
This is when you can help your children develop good habits for protecting themselves from the sun’s direct rays. Help them by teaching your children to be aware of the time on the clock to guide their hours in the sun. Give your child the benefit of better skin health.
Just like your youngster will watch the clock for baseball practice time, he will be able to know when it is safer to go out and play in the sun. Get healthy lifestyle habits started now.
6. If My Parents Don’t Have Skin Cancer, I Won’t Either
This has long been a statement we have used to excuse a great deal of our foolish personal behavior. This particular statement no longer holds true as lifestyles have changed so much. Your grandparents and parents didn’t play in the direct sun’s rays as you have.
The young people of today are out in the sun more. Each generation has continued to be in the sun for more hours of the year than prior generations did.
In earlier generations, if people were in the direct sun, they wore sun blocking clothing. Long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats. Layers of clothing to keep the sun off their skin.
Now there may not be the long days in the sun as it was when there were more agriculture-based jobs. There may be only weekend warriors out in the sun nowadays. When you are inside all week, come the weekend spending time and energy protecting your skin isn’t at the top of the priority list.
However, it should be. When we are out on weekends, we tend to stay out for a longer length of time and be less inclined to reapply sunscreen to our skin.
When you are using sun blocking clothing for skin protection you have protection as long as you have that sunblocking shirt on. The sun hat works when you wear it. Your sunglasses protect your eyes so that you don’t have sun damage to your eyes. It is simply a choice. Which one will you make?
Times And Clothing Styles Change
I see the difference in lifestyles just in our families. We have more sports that happen all summer. This is important as sports are no longer a part of the curriculum for grade school kids. The push for education budgets and limited economic strategy has pushed physical ed out of the class schedule.
We now have 5-year-olds playing 2 hours for practice several times a week and then game times as well. Before such young kids were involved in Tee Ball, they were out 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon during the school day.
That is a reasonable exposure time to direct sun. The child will only have about two 15-minute spans of time exposure during that time. Not the 2 hours all at one time, as it is with sports now.
This continues as the child grows, and if they add another sport they are soon racking up hours of sun exposure, especially in the summertime.
We also need to remember that there is swimming and being out on bikes and just playing. Starting so early sets you up for skin cancer earlier in life. Parents and guidelines for skin protection, plus sun blocking clothing plays a part in smart skin protection.
7. You Won’t Sunburn In The Winter
This is another place to be cautious. Will you have to learn the hard way about the danger of skin cancer from winter sun exposure? If you are out in the direct sun where there are snow-covered surfaces, the reflection of the sun’s rays will intensify the damage from sun exposure. You will suffer sunburn quicker than you realize.
For people who participate in winter sports, the lips are often the first to show damage. The little fever blister-looking lesions on and around the lips are uncomfortable, unsightly, and often hard to cover so they can heal.
Until I started this research, I didn’t realize how hard the lips are to heal, and how important sun blocking clothing can be to winter sportspeople. Smart performance athletic wear is important for you.
The face masks protect your lips, cheeks, ears, and nose, plus sunglasses for your eyes. These items make your skin healthier. This is an area that I thought you covered up for warmth. Yes, that is part of it, but protection from the sun is equally as important.
Winter sun may take a bit longer to do damage to your skin because the rays are no longer directly overhead. (When you live in Central Texas) But winters are dangerous for your skin as well. It only takes one more sunburn to be the one too many that destroy your cell’s DNA.
Bonus # 8 The Sun Does Not Cause All Skin Cancer
It is no surprise that if you smoke you are more likely to develop skin cancer on your lips.
Also, consider if you have received radiation treatments. Those areas will probably be the places where skin cancer occurs.
Keep in mind that when you have received any treatment that weakens the immune system will make you more prone to skin cancer anywhere on the body. This kind of treatment happens when transplants occur, heart and other organs.
Don’t forget about your exposure to some chemicals like arsenic, industrial tar, and coal also could increase your risk of cancer.
Another lifestyle that makes skin cancer more a part of your risk? Do you take Tylenol, Mortin, and Asprin? Do you take allergy medication? Over-the-counter medications and prescription medications can cause you to be more sensitive to the sun. If you take any medications, sun blocking clothing is your best bet.
Another word to the wise, if your parents had skin cancers, you are probably subject to it as well. If your family history includes melanoma, you should screen early and often.
Awareness is the first step in prevention. Keep your awareness level growing and know how to keep yourself and your family well.
As always, the research is ongoing. Making yourself aware of recent developments is important as well.
Sami’s Take On Six Misconceptions About Skin Cancer
Do you find yourself delaying making some changes to protect your skin? It is never too early to begin to do a better job of protecting your skin from the sun.
And it is never too late. Even if you have lived for a long time with some not-so-good skin health habits, it isn’t too late to change. You of all people should be more careful Old sun damage can show up at any time. Getting more damage on top of old just does not seem wise.
Mom was in her mid 80’s when her skin cancer became apparent. She continued to get sun on the area below her chin on her upper chest. Sunscreen would have been so easy. We just didn’t know.
Get things started right for your family and their safe fun in the sun days. Help them understand the need for a sunblocking shirt. A long-sleeved fitting shirt of a tightly woven fabric. The shirt needs a collar to pull up and protect your neck. A hat with at least a 3-inch wide brim to block the sun from your head, face, nose, and ears. Plus your neck.
Sunglasses that are a wraparound style or that have oversized lenses will protect you better. Sunscreen wherever you are not covered.
Is it that hard? Will you help your family build good sun-safe habits?
Know your sunburn risks and prepare to keep safe when you are out.