Every year, too many people are diagnosed with skin cancer. Here’s what you need to know.

Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color or even age. Although ultraviolet (UV) exposure from the sun and tanning beds is the most common cause, family history and other factors can also increase the likelihood of skin cancer.

Here are ten of the most common misconceptions about skin cancer and how to reduce your risk and catch skin cancer early if it does occur.

1: There is only one type of skin cancer

Among the different types of skin cancer, some are more serious than others. The two most common types are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These skin cancers start in the basal and scaly layers of the skin. Melanoma, much less common, starts in melanocytes, the skin cells that produce pigments. Melanoma is more serious and more invasive than basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

2: melanoma is just a mole that needs to be removed

It is true that all melanomas arise from melanocytes, including those found in moles. But it’s much more than a mole that needs to be removed, it can be fatal if not treated in time. When screening for skin cancer, look for dark, asymmetrical, jagged patches. Melanoma spots change over time and sometimes have colors that vary within the spot. Although most melanomas are larger than a pencil eraser, some are detected when they are smaller. We all know our bodies better than our doctors. We should all be aware of the marks that appear on our bodies. They are more numerous with age, but if they change, it is necessary to be examined by a doctor.

3: melanoma only appears on the skin

These spots do not only appear on the skin. Rare forms of melanoma can appear on the eyes (ocular melanoma) and on the mucous membranes (mucous melanoma), especially those of the nose, mouth or lips.

4: skin cancer is not serious

Skin cancer, especially melanoma, can be deadly if not detected in time. Melanoma tends to spread to other parts of the body. Anyone diagnosed at an advanced stage, beyond stage 1, will need surgery and immunotherapy. Immunotherapies are now used to treat many types of cancer. Rather than using a toxic agent to kill rapidly growing tumor cells, as chemotherapy does, immunotherapies teach a person’s immune system to attack cancer cells, as it would a virus.
Some basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers may require radiation therapy after surgery to kill any remaining tumor cells.

5: People with darker skin don’t get skin cancer

People of any skin color can get skin cancer from UV rays. Skin cancer may go unnoticed more frequently in people with darker skin. Black patients are three times more likely to be diagnosed with advanced melanoma than white patients. People with darker skin are also affected by rare subtypes that are not solely related to UV damage. Communities of color have higher rates of a rare type of skin cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma, which appears on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and nail beds.

6: You’ll only get melanoma if you’ve spent years exposing yourself to the sun and getting burns

A single sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles the risk of developing melanoma later in life. A sunburn is one too many sunburns, which can damage skin cells and potentially increase the risk of melanoma. Multiple severe sunburns and prolonged UV exposure over a lifetime are worse, as sun damage builds up over time. Still, a single sunburn can cause lasting damage.

7: A base tan obtained in a tanning booth helps prevent sunburn and, therefore, skin cancer.

No tan is healthy. Tanning is actually a sign that the skin is in danger. It is a reaction of the skin to damage or stress caused by UV exposure. Even if you don’t burn, sun exposure causes cell damage that increases the risk of skin cancer. Tanning does not protect you from sunburn. Studies have shown that a base tan provides about the same UV protection as sunscreen with an SPF of 3 or less.

8: Makeup can provide all the protection you need for your skin

It’s a good thing that some makeup and foundations contain SPF, but it’s not enough. You really have to put on SPF 30 or more, apply makeup and reapply every two hours. Reapplying sunscreen is essential and usually not part of the makeup routine. And regardless of your skin color, everyone should wear sunscreen and avoid going outside during peak sunlight hours, all year round.

9: Sunscreen is only necessary when you are outside for hours, such as at the beach or at the pool.

Sunscreen should be part of everyone’s morning routine, even if one plans to stay indoors for most of the day. You can be outdoors during your ride and you can also expose yourself to the sun through the windows when you are indoors. When you are outdoors for an extended period, you should reapply sunscreen every two hours.

10: Only UV exposure causes skin cancer

While UV exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer, it is not the only risk factor. Skin cancer can be hereditary. Researchers haven’t yet identified the hereditary genetics of melanoma, but there are clues about which genes might be involved. Family history is more often a factor in adolescents and young adults who develop skin cancer.

The rare subtypes of skin cancer that affect the eyes, mucous membranes and the lower part of the hands and feet are generally not caused by UV exposure. The presence of many moles and certain types of moles also increases the risk of skin cancer.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.