Busting common sun safety and skin cancer myths

Skin cancer is extremely common— one in five people in the US will get it in their lifetimes—but fortunately, it is also often curable when patients receive cancer care in the disease’s earliest stages. Many people fail to protect themselves adequately from skin cancer because of myths and misconceptions about the disease and sun safety. Don’t fail to take easy steps to prevent skin cancer because of these myths. Here is a look at some of the most common misconceptions people have and the truth you need to know.

Myth: I won’t get skin cancer because I don’t spend much time outside.
Even short periods of sun exposure add up over time, increasing the risk of skin cancer. If you have fair skin, this risk is even worse. You don’t have to spend the day at the beach to increase your cancer risk. You are being exposed to UV rays when you’re doing mundane activities, like:

  • Driving with the sunroof open
  • Walking in outdoor shopping centers
  • Sitting at an outdoor café

This kind of sun exposure is linked to squamous cell skin cancer, which causes up to 20% of deaths from skin cancer .

Myth: I don’t need sunscreen if it is cloudy outside.
If you are going to be outside for an extended period of time, you need sunscreen. You can still get a sunburn on cloudy days, and you can still be exposed to dangerous UV rays. Cloud cover only marginally decreases the amount of UV rays that make it to the ground.

Clouds can also reflect some of the rays, which increases their intensity. Sunscreen is a must to reduce your cancer risk, no matter what the sky looks like.

Myth: High SPF sunscreens don’t really provide more protection.
There is a value to using a sunscreen with a high SPF for several reasons:

  • High SPFs compensate for under-applying sunscreen
  • High SPF sunscreens are better at protecting your in extreme conditions
  • High SPF sunscreens reduce chronic UV damage

Any kind of sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming.

West Hills Hospital & Medical Center provides comprehensive cancer care in West Hills. We have a multidisciplinary team of specialists who combine compassion with cutting-edge care. For more information about our cancer care program, please call (818) 676-4321.

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