When it comes to melanoma and other skin cancers, misconceptions abound. It is important to understand what will help prevent them and what might actually increase a person's risk. Here are four common myths related to melanoma and other skin cancers.
MYTH: Dark skin doesn't burn so those with it won't get skin cancer.
FACT: All skin types and ethnic groups can develop skin cancer. While it is true that Caucasians have a greater risk of skin-related cancer, everyone should protect their skin against UV rays. Although fair-skinned people can fairly easily see stage 1 melanoma and other cancers, darker skin makes catching it in the early stages more unlikely, and darker-skinned individuals tend to develop a more lethal type of melanoma that develops on the soles of the feet, between the toes, and on the palms of the hands. Additionally, Hispanics and African-Americans who have developed skin cancer have a noticeably higher mortality rate, often due to having it diagnosed in later stages.
MYTH: Putting on sunscreen as soon as one gets to the beach will protect against skin cancer.
FACT: Sunscreen takes about 15-30 minutes to really get absorbed by skin. Although it will still make a difference, a person won't have total protection until it has been absorbed. Additionally, applying sunscreen every two to four hours- and more frequently if you're in the water- while in the sun is highly recommended. Also, people should make sure to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30, especially those with fair skin.
MYTH: Unexposed skin can't get melanoma and doesn't need to be checked.
FACT: Unfortunately, melanoma can be developed on the soles of feet, beneath toenails and fingernails, in some organs and even in the eyes. Whether skin is exposed or not, it is still at risk of melanoma and should be checked during a cancer screening.
MYTH: Only people who tan regularly get skin cancer.
FACT: Anyone can get melanoma or other skin-related cancers. If there are any signs that a mole is changing shape or color, or a patch of skin has become harder or discolored, a doctor should be consulted. If cancer is detected, it is important to keep abreast of the latest advances in detection and treatment.
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