Frustrating Misconceptions About Skin Cancer
Last updated: February 2023
If you hear it once it must be true right? I know I’ve fallen into the trap of quickly reading something online and immediately taking it as fact. However, there’s a good chance it was probably just some random person’s opinion. It’s very possible that it’s completely false, yet it still spreads like wildfire. Unfortunately, many of my friends and family also fall into this trap – especially when it comes to sun protection. Often, "facts" about skin cancer are misconceptions about skin cancer.
Misconceptions about skin cancer spread quickly
I regularly come across situations in my everyday life where friends try to help me by sharing some of the random “facts” they’ve picked up throughout the years. This happens surprisingly often, and usually from people that have absolutely no knowledge about proper sun protection. Fortunately, when it comes to skin protection, I’ve done enough research to know what’s true and false. Sharing misinformation is not only frustrating but can be extremely dangerous if other people start believing it as well.
Here are the top 5 misconceptions about skin cancer and sun protection that I come across way more often than I should:
“You don’t need sunscreen after 5pm”
Unfortunately, this is incorrect. If the sun is out, you should be protecting your skin. I play in a beach volleyball league a few times a week and games start at 6:00 pm. I usually arrive at around 5:30 to apply my sunscreen and start warming up inside the complex before stepping out into the sun. It amazes me how many times people have stopped me mid-application to tell me it was unnecessary to use sunscreen because the sun was already starting to go down. While the UV radiation is certainly less intense late afternoon, it can still be extremely harmful to your skin.
“You are fully protected immediately after applying sunscreen”
It takes 15-20 minutes for a chemical sunscreen to really start working. Physical sunscreens work immediately, but I personally prefer the chemical ones. So when my friends want me to meet them at the park or go for a bike ride, I need some time. I can’t just immediately go out in the sun, although most people don’t understand that concept. With a chemical sunscreen, it takes some time to absorb into your skin and you aren’t really protected until about 15-20 minutes after the application.
“You don’t need to protect your skin on cloudy days”
UV rays can pass through the clouds. Just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean it’s not firing off UV radiation.
“Skin cancer is no big deal, I know plenty of people that have had it”
This one gets me every time. I just don’t understand the thought process but have been told some variation of this multiple times by multiple people. Yes, a lot of people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, but how does that make it any less dangerous? And what good can possibly come from trying to downplay a health concern someone else has? I don’t mean to vent…but as you can tell this one hits a nerve.
Let's stop this in its tracks
Skin cancer is definitely a big deal, regardless of your age, diagnosis, skin color, or anything else. Even if you’ve never or don’t already have skin cancer, it’s still something that should be taken seriously. Unlike many other cancers, with the right protective measures, you can significantly decrease your odds of getting skin cancer in the future. So let's commit to stopping misconceptions about skin cancer in their tracks. After all, they do nothing to help anyone and only hurt everyone.
What are some misconceptions about skin cancer that really get to you?
Do you sunscreen in the fall?