6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, strikes about 70,000 Americans each year and kills nearly 10,000, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sadly, many of those deaths could probably be prevented because melanoma is highly curable when caught early.
One famous example is Jamaican performer Bob Marley, who was felled by brain cancer in 1981 when he was just 36. The cancer spread from a melanoma on his big toe. It was initially misdiagnosed as a soccer injury and when the true nature of the problem was eventually discovered, his fate was already sealed, explains an article on repeatingislands.com.
Whether they play soccer, golf or baseball or just like to run, outdoor enthusiasts in Arizona are at higher risk for skin cancers because it’s easy to spend lots of time in the sun during all seasons. While most of the attention is on summer sun exposure, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends people thoroughly inspect their skin every month looking for suspicious lesions or blemishes.
If you find a mole or other skin issue that appears abnormal or causes you concern, schedule a consultation with a medical professional for a screening.
Time your exposure
If you enjoy outdoor sports or jogging, being active at the right time of day can reduce your sun exposure.
“Try to plan your runs during hours where sun is less intense, such as early mornings or late afternoons or evenings,” advises Carly Benford. In addition to being an avid runner, Benford is the research coordinator for a clinical trial for melanoma research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute.
Benford says any abnormal changes to your skin could be a sign of skin cancer. She suggests having an annual skin exam from a dermatologist to catch any issues early.
SPF is not enough
Most people think they are protected if they use a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF). There are two types of damaging sun rays, Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB), and SPF refers only to UVB protection. Read the label carefully because you need to make certain you use a sunscreen that also protects against UVA rays. Most dermatologists advise using sunscreen with 30 SPF or higher. Many believe higher is better, simply because people do such a poor job of properly applying sunscreen.
Dark skin is not a protection
The idea that people with tan or dark skin are not harmed by sun exposure is patently false.
“Unfortunately, skin cancer is frequently diagnosed later in people of color — perhaps because of the misconception that they are not at risk — so it’s often progressed to a later stage and is more difficult to treat,” says Dr. Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at USC School of Medicine in an article for Reader’s Digest.
Sunscreen doesn’t cause cancer
Some people claim chemical ingredients in sunscreen are actually harmful and can cause cancer. But there is no research to support this idea, Wu notes. With tens of millions of people using sunscreen regularly, there would be some evidence if it were really harmful. On the other hand, countless studies document the benefits of using sunscreen.
Block the sun
Even the best sunscreen allows some UV rays to get through. “Hats, sunglasses and UV protective clothing are all options, in addition to sunscreen, for protecting yourself from the damages of sun while on a run,” explains Benford. She notes many runners and other athletes don’t use any sunscreen, believing they’ll only be outside for a short time.
You can help
The Translational Genomics Research Institute and Mayo Clinic are conducting a national clinical trial to treat advanced melanoma skin cancer. The trial uses recently FDA-approved precision medicine to fight deadly melanoma. Patients who have melanoma and who want to be considered for participation in the trial should call the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Clinical Trials Referral Office at 855-776-0015.
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, and diabetes, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org. Follow TGen on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.