Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia, with two in three people diagnosed in their lifetime. With over 2000 people a year dying from skin cancer in the country it is vital to know fact from fiction. Here are five common myths about skin cancer that need to be debunked:
People need to be outdoors regularly and for long periods of time to get skin cancer
This is one of the most prevalent myths that prevents people from taking proper precautions against sun damage throughout their day. Skin damage is a cumulative effect, it doesn’t need to present itself as bad sunburns and raw skin, it can be caused by brief moments of sun exposure over years of walking to work, watching TV next to an unfiltered window or sitting in an outdoor cafe.
These moments can add up and eventually form skin cancer. To protect yourself you should always take proper precautions when exposed to the sun for any period of time, particularly between the peak UV hours of 10am and 4pm.
People with darker skin are not at risk of developing skin cancer
This is dangerously wrong. While it is true that darker skinned people have a lower risk of developing skin cancer there is still the possibility that it happens. Because of the myth that darker people don’t get skin cancer they often undergo less checks and often detect skin cancer only when it is at a more developed, and more dangerous, stage.
You don’t need to protect yourself from the sun on a cloudy day or during winter
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer. This radiation is constantly projected by the sun and can be strong or weak despite the temperature of the day. These rays can penetrate clouds and be just as strong on a cool autumn day as a warm summer one. In winter, particularly if people are skiing or on vacation in the mountains, the snow can reflect UV rays and significantly increase the amount of UV radiation you are exposed to.
Young people don’t get skin cancer
This is false. While less common than in older people it is still a serious issue with skin cancer identified as the leading form of cancer in young adults and teenagers. It is also important to keep in mind that severe sunburn early in life can dramatically increase your chance of skin cancer when you are older.
People need to spend prolonged periods of time in the sun to increase their Vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is important for an individual’s health and wellbeing and can be produced in the body through exposure to the sun. However, short bursts of sun, outside the peak hours of 9am to 4pm is more than enough to produce the Vitamin D that your body needs. If in doubt you can also buy Vitamin D supplements, rather than risking overexposure to UV Rays.