Skin cancer can affect anyone under the sun – literally! That’s why it’s so important to stay informed about how it works and what we’re doing to keep ourselves safe from it. Unfortunately, there’s some misinformation out there, and some of it can be harmful to your health, so let’s talk about a few of the most pervasive myths regarding skin cancer, and the truth behind them.
Myth 1: Tanning beds are safer than the sun
This myth is particularly dangerous. Tanning beds can be more harmful because they emit the same dangerous UV radiation you’ll get laying out by the pool but in greater amounts. Tanning can increase your danger of contracting skin cancer, so skip the tanning bed and go for a self-tanner instead!
Myth 2: Tans prevent sunburns
Did you know? Tanning starts to occur when your body detects that you’re taking in more UV damage than your skin can handle. It provides a mild protective effect, but get inside or put on some sunscreen ASAP! Further damage from the sun can easily overpower any protective element of your tan and contribute to your cancer risk.
This also applies to the old wives’ tale that tanning as a child will protect you as an adult. Getting a tan as a kid might be an indicator that you don’t burn as fast as someone who doesn’t tan, but it’s not something that will protect you into adulthood.
Myth 3: You only need sunscreen on sunny days
Contrary to popular belief, you need sunscreen every day! Even on cloudy or cold days, UV rays can make it to your skin. It’s better to integrate a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF into your skincare routine every day to avoid these sneaky cancer-causing UV rays that can sneak in and damage your skin! At the very least, add in a facial sunscreen or an SPF lip balm, but it’s also helpful to keep a quick spray sunscreen by your door so you can remember it every time you leave your home.
Myth 4: It’s worth all the extra money to get high SPF sunscreens
As SPF rises, the amount of UV filtering rises exponentially. An SPF of 15 will filter out about 97% of UV rays, 30 will cover 98% of UV rays, and so forth. There isn’t that much difference between SPF 100 and SPF 30, so feel free to go ahead and grab the cheaper option. SPF 30 should be enough to keep most people safe from UV rays.
Myth 5: Sunscreen is full of harmful chemicals
Sunscreens are regulated, and are considered by the FDA to be safe and effective! The chemicals in sunscreen are a far better alternative than overexposure to sunlight that could leave you with cancer!
If you’re still concerned, you could try an all-natural mineral sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens have become more widely available since their introduction, and are even available from popular drugstore brands like Coppertone!
While skin cancer is not solely caused by sun exposure, protecting yourself from the sun can significantly lower your chances of contracting it. Stick to the shade while outdoors, cover up if you can, and always wear sunscreen if you can’t! If you have any other questions about skin cancer, please feel free to get in touch with one of our board-certified dermatologists.