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Five Common Misconceptions About Skin Cancer

Apr 14, 2017 10:20:00 AM / by Mr. Fuan Chan

It’s starting to get warmer and many of you might be thinking of taking a break over Easter, or even just looking at that holiday you want to take in the summer, so it’s also a good time to think about sun protection. Sun damage is the leading cause of skin cancer, so it is important to know the facts and ensure your skin is well protected. There is a lot of misinformation out there about skin cancer; who is at risk from the disease and how it develops. Early detection is very important when it comes to treating the illness so being aware of the facts around skin cancer is essential. Here are five of the more common inaccurate beliefs about the condition – and the truth behind them.

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1) Skin cancer only affects older people

This inaccurate information may have come from the fact that the skin cancer can develop later in life, after prolonged sun exposure or episodes of severe sunburn in a person’s earlier life. However, it is not an older person’s disease at all – in fact a report from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) showed that the biggest increase in non-melanoma skin cancer from 1994 to 2011 was among young people. This is all the more significant because if you have a skin cancer early on in life, it increases your chances of it reoccurring later on too.

2) You don’t need to worry about skin cancer if you don’t spend much time outdoors

While undoubtedly people who have outdoor jobs (such as the farming community) have an increased risk of developing skin cancer, they are not the only ones. The incidental sun exposure we all get, day-to-day and all year round, can have a cumulative effect on skin. This casual exposure builds up over time and can lead to the development of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma.

3) People who tan easily don’t get skin cancer

This is a very common belief, and an inaccurate one I’m afraid. All skin types can develop skin cancers. It is true that paler skin types, such as the traditional Celtic complexion (light skin, blue eyes and dark hair) are more prone to the damage of UV and developing skin cancers, but more sallow skin tones also develop the disease. In fact, there are dangers involved for people who tan easily as they are sometimes a little more casual with their sun care than a paler person whose skin burns. Also, when your skin is darker, moles and pigmentation spots can be harder to see and it can be more difficult to be aware of any changes that may indicate the early stages of a skin cancer.

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4) You don’t have to wear sun cream on an overcast day

One of the more dangerous inaccurate beliefs around skincare is knowing that sun exposure is a main cause, but thinking that it only means prolonged exposure in hot sunny weather. Even in countries like Ireland – not known for high sunshine levels – we are still exposed to the sun’s UV rays every day. UV can penetrate cloud and can be just as damaging outside of summer months as it is on brighter, warmer days. Sun safety is not just for hot weather or holidays. Get into the habit of applying an SPF every day – factor 15 is fine for most incidental exposure but up it to SPF30 if in warmer weather or if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors.

5) Tanning beds give a safe base for a real suntan before your holidays

Most skincare professionals agree that sunbeds or tanning beds are in no way good for skin. They expose skin to high levels of UV rays, which can lead to the development of skin cancers, not to mention their aging effect on the skin too. Always keep in mind that there is no such thing as a safe tan – any tan is actually a sign of skin damage. Your skin has been under attack from UV and has produced more melanin (the pigment that gives skin its colour) to try to protect it. Having a tan before you go on holiday does not offer any protection.

If you are concerned about your skin or that of a loved one, arrange a consultation with me at my clinic, and, because being sun smart is important in reducing the risk of skin damage from UV rays, download our free guide to sun protection:

Download Mr Chan's Guide to Proper Sunscreen Use

Mr. Fuan Chan

Written by Mr. Fuan Chan

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