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Six Misconceptions About Skin Cancer

Young boy enjoying a sport in the bright sunshine

Do you find yourself repeating 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. Preventing skin cancer is not something they need to worry about.

They think ” 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.  

With the mindset that “it won’t happen to me” you can find yourself led astray.  Led 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 wecan do to help prevent skin cancer for your self.

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 50% 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 half 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 or 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 play 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 or visa-versa?  
  • How much time do you spend in the vehicle during the danger 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. 

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 fields unbearable hours.  My brother did drive a tractor, while I did little of that because in Dad’s mind that was men’s work, not girl’s. We were exposed some to the sun and sunburned on occasion.  I had long sleeves to wear, 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 a large part of my right cheek removed.  The damage caused by too many hours in the sun as well 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 warnings come from some experience.  While these are the first of the 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 office much more often than I was.

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 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.  It is an area on your skin where you have had some kind of damage that the DNA of the skin cell is damaged.  This damage is usually sun exposure, but not always.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

The master plan 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 be 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 

Was it damaged from wearing something so long in the someplace? Or did that thin little band blister faster?  That is where my first actual skin cancer was discovered.  

Don’t disregard skin cancer as unimportant.  If neglected it can quickly cause scaring damaging and if ignored too long, bone loss.

Not A Concern For People Who Have Darker Pigment In Their Skin

Skin cancer is 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 of your skin. Your skin is producing melanin to protect the body under your skin, or your skin sack.

Wikipedia :

Human skin color ranges in variety from the darkest brown to palest. An individual’s skin pigmentation is the result of genetics, being the product of both of the individual’s biological parents’ genetic makeup, and exposure to the sun. In evolution, skin pigmentation in human beings evolved by a process of natural selection primarily to regulate the amount of ultraviolet radiation penetrating the skin, controlling its biochemical effects.[1]

The actual skin color of different humans is affected by many substances, most important substance is the pigment melanin. Melanin is produced within the skin in cells called melanocytes and it is the main determinant of the skin color of darker-skin humans. The skin color of people with light skin is determined mainly by the bluish-white connective tissue under the dermis and by the haemoglobin circulating in the veins of the dermis. The red color underlying the skin becomes more visible, especially in the face, when, as a consequence of physical exercise or the stimulation of the nervous system (anger, fear), arterioles dilate.[2]  ( I did not do a lot of editing as I found the explanation interesting. I hope this answered some questions for you, too.)

Protection Is Important.

A darker skin tone may take longer to get to the danger point in sun exposure, but they are not as protected as they may think. In fact with darker-skinned patients, Melanoma, the most lethal of all skin cancers is usually not diagnosed as early. Without the ability to see the contrast in skin color it is more difficult to notice.

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

Only happens When You Get Older

Skin cancer is often the result of repeated damage You get by with being out in the direct sun for years. Then one day the funny looking spot appears. Mine 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 and 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.

The rapid reproduction is what caused the build-up.. Otherwise, the 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.

Damage Starts Early In Life

There are reports of young kids starting while very young getting basal cell carcinoma cancers treatment and even 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 direct sun’s direct rays. Help them by teaching your children to be aware of the time on the clock for guiding their hours in the sun. Give your child the benefit of better skin health.

If My Parents Don’t Have It I Won’t Either

This has long been a statement we have used to excuse a great deal of our foolish personal behaviour. 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 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.

Times And Clothing Styles Change

I see the difference in lifestyles just in our families. We have more sports that happen all summer 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 classroom.

We now have 5-year-old’s 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- you will only have about two 15 minute spans of time exposure during that time. Not the 2 hours 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 is smart skin protection.

You Won’t Sunburn In The Winter

This is another place to be cautious. We had 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 suns rays will intensify the damage from sun exposure. You will suffer sunburn quicker than you realize.

With 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 the sun blocking clothing can be to the winter sportspeople. Smart performance athletic wear is important for you.

The face masks that protect the lips, plus sunglasses for the 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 cells DNA.

Bonus # 7 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 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.

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