Dermatologic Disease Awareness and Teledermatology


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Four Common Skin Cancer Myths

There are a lot of skin cancer myths out there from who can get it to what exactly causes it and it’s time for some debunking!

Myth Number 1: People who tan easily will not get cancer and having a tan protects you from the sun.

This myth is completely false.  A tan is the body's response to damaged DNA in the skin cells — the skin darkens in order to prevent more damage, but the person's risk of skin cancer is already increased.[1] There is no such thing as a ‘healthy’ tan. Excessive sun exposure has been linked to skin cancer and to premature aging, drying and wrinkling of the skin whether you tan easily or not.[2] It doesn’t matter if you burn easily or if you are more likely to tan, you should always try to protect your skin from UV damage. Every human is at risk, no matter your age, skin color, or location, seek sun protection!


Myth Number 2: Before visiting a country closer to the equator you should go to an indoor tanning booth to get a “base tan” so you don’t burn.


While this is common practice for some, this myth is also false. As stated before, there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ tan, especially from a tanning bed. According to the FDA, the risk of melanoma of the skin increasing by 75 percent when tanning bed use started before age 35. And the association is stronger for patients with a younger age at exposure. The World Health Organization reclassified all forms of sunlamps, tanning beds, and UV light as class 1 carcinogens, which are known to cause cancer to humans.[3] So, before visiting a country closer to the equator, know how to protect your skin by applying an adequate amount of sunblock of at least SPF 30, and reapplying every 1-2 hours, wear protective clothing, and seek shade between 10AM and 4PM when UV rays are strongest.

Myth Number 3: You don’t need to wear sunscreen when its cloudy or cold.

Also, false. During the winter months the sale of sunscreen always drops. But why? While its colder and cloudy in some areas, UV radiation still gets through the clouds and still can damage your skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80 percent of the sun's UV rays can pass through clouds. And even in the snow, the sun’s rays are still there. In fact snow can reflect up to 80 percent of UV rays, increasing your exposure. So, still stock up on sun screen even in the winter months and make sure to make sunscreen a part of your daily routine all year!

Myth Number 4: Skin cancer develops only on parts of the body that have gotten too much sun.

As you probably guessed, this one is false too. Although skin cancer most often occurs in areas that are frequently exposed to direct sunlight, cancer can also develop on skin that is usually covered by clothes.[4] Because cancer can occur anywhere on the skin, a doctor performing skin cancer screening examines everywhere. If you notice unusual spots or changes to existing moles anywhere on your skin or if you have multiple risk factors for skin cancer, talk to your doctor about doing a skin cancer screening.

Know the facts before you head outside and make sure to take the proper precautions when it comes to skin damage from UV rays! To learn more, check out our other blogs.



[1] Zhang M, Qureshi AA, Geller AC, Frazier L, Hunter DJ, Han J. Use of tanning beds and incidence of skin cancer. J Clin Oncol 2012.

[2] Ibid.

[3] "U.S. Food and Drug Administration." Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays. 2015.

[4] Armstrong BK, Kricker A, English DR. Sun exposure and skin cancer. Aust J Dermatol 1997