Misconceptions about the causes of skin cancer can be dangerous and are a major cause for concern in the medical community. Many people are unaware of its causes and thus may be underestimating their risks. Read on as we do some myth busting so you can learn some facts about skin cancer and protect the skin you're in!
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, affecting more than 3.5 million Americans each year. It affects only the top layer of the skin in 48,000 of those diagnosed with an early form the disease.
There are two common types of skin cancer:
- melanoma: begins in the pigment cells (melanocytes) that are mostly found in the skin. It is almost always curable when it is found in its early stages. This type of skin cancer is far more dangerous than other kinds of skin cancers and causes 9,700 of the approximately 13,000 deaths from skin cancer annually. It can also occur in the mouth,eyes, genital or anal areas as well. Non-melanoma: affects basal or squamous skin cells. Often times this type of cancer develops in areas exposed to the sun such as the ears, back side of hands, face, neck and the lips.
- Other risk factors for skin cancer include exposure to coal tar, creosote, radium or compounds of arsenic
- You can also have a genetically linked likelihood of getting skin cancer if you have a family history of the disease
- A still common misconception is that only people with fairer skin get skin cancer. No one gets a free pass, anyone can get skin cancer. Though the risk of developing melanoma in people of Asian, African-American and Latino descent is low , it is more deadly for these groups.
- Tanning, regardless of whether you do it indoors or outdoors in the sun, can cause other types of skin cancer, premature aging and skin damage. An alarming misconception is that indoor tanning is ‘safer’ than outdoor tanning however the UV radiation from tanning bed lamps is still dangerous. Other effects of prolonged UV ray exposure includes premature aging , sometimes called photoaging which shows as dark spots, leathery and wrinkled skin.
- Skin is the largest organ in the body
- Cells in the skin communicate with the brain and send information about temperature, pain sensations and touch
- Most Basal and squamous cell cancers develop from prolonged and unprotected sun-exposure of the skin but they rarely spread to other parts of the body
- Basal or squamous cell cancers can be cured if found and treated early
- Reducing unprotected and/or long exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning bed lamps is the most preventable cause of skin cancer
A still common misconception is that only people with fairer skin get skin cancer. No one gets a free pass, anyone can get skin cancer.
Key Terms & Definitions
- Melanoma - a form of cancer that begins in the pigment cells
- UV rays (ultraviolet rays)- invisible rays that come from the sun or other sources like lamps in a tanning bed. The damage can cause skin cells to grow abnormally and develop into either benign or malignant growths.
- Tanning - When you tan your skin, the skin responds by producing more melanin and darkens the skin however this pigment is actually the body's’ way of showing that the skin is damaged
- Benign growths refer to growths that are non-aggressive in effect whereas malignant cancers are very invasive or malicious.