Skin Cancer Facts & Myths

There are plenty of facts and myths that are passed around about skin cancer. We have collected some of the most common facts to share and myths to debunk about skin cancer below.

The three most important facts to remember about skin cancer

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Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world

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Melanomas are deadly and affect 1 in 19 Queenslanders

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If you were sunburnt between the ages of 10 and 19, the chances of you getting skin cancer are tripled.

Facts and Myths About Skin Cancer

It is safe to shave or partially remove a mole yourself - Myth
All mole removal should be done by an expert because any self removal will likely be incomplete, missing the melanoma component. Additionally, the residue of the mole can still evolve into a melanoma and this would be difficult to assess in the future because of scar tissue. Cosmetic mole removal by shaving is unsafe for exactly the same reasons.
Putting sunscreen on a mole will stop it becoming a melanoma - Myth
Melanomas can appear anywhere on the body as the result of prior skin damage.
Using sunscreen with a minimum SPF value of 50+ will protect me from getting skin cancer - Myth
While using 50+ SPF sunscreen is important, you also need to take other precautions and limit your exposure to give yourself the best protection.
Melanoma can occur on any part of the body - Fact
If a new mole appears anywhere on your body you should get it checked, even if it is located in an area that doesn’t get exposed to the sun.
You can’t tan if you use sunscreen - Myth
Though sunscreen is worth using to protect your skin, sunscreens predominately screen out UVB radiation. Significant amounts of UVA, (responsible for your tan as well as skin cancer and ageing), still pass through sunscreen.
Melanomas are caused by the expression of a combination of genes - Fact
Melanoma genes are turned on by sunburn usually in the first twenty years of life, particularly blistering sunburn. The resulting melanoma may appear anywhere on the body at any time in the future, often many years later. A form of melanoma which is becoming more common is lentigo maligna. It occurs on skin which has been exposed to high levels of sun over many years and is particularly common on the face.

There are other triggers of melanoma, including arsenic exposure, radiation, and drugs taken to suppress the immune system that are commonly used in the treatment of cancer (chemotherapy) and in some autoimmune conditions. If these drugs have been used then regular skin examinations are required.

Melanomas are always brown - Myth
Not all melanomas are brown or black, some are skin coloured, pink, red, or even blue or grey. They can be all shapes and sizes and may also have hair growing out of them.
Melanomas are most likely new moles - Fact
Most melanomas occur in moles that are recent, fewer develop in moles that have been present for some time. New moles are very uncommon over the age of 50 and melanoma needs to be excluded as a diagnosis.
Young people don’t get melanomas - Myth
Most melanomas appear in people over the age of 50 but sometimes teenagers get melanoma. It is unlikely that melanoma will appear before puberty, though not unheard of.
Men are more likely to get melanomas than women - Fact
Men are slightly more likely to get a melanoma than women and mostly get melanomas on their back. Women mostly get melanoma on their legs or forearms.
You should get your skin checked every year - Fact
Most melanomas take some time to develop so annual skin checks in low risk individuals are fine, provided that the person is vigilant and keeps an eye out for moles that change in any way. In some rare cases, a melanoma will appear, grow quickly, and spread within a few months, so it is essential that any new lesions are swiftly checked.
Solariums provide a safe way to tan - Myth
Solariums are now banned in Queensland but previous use is a significant risk factor for melanoma.
You can’t get sunburnt on a cloudy day - Myth
You can still get sunburnt with cloud cover or sitting in the shade due to reflected and refracted light.
Melanomas are the only deadly skin cancers - Myth
Non-melanomas can still kill although it is less likely to.
What appears as acne can sometimes actually be melanoma - Fact
If a pimple lasts for a month it is not a pimple and needs to be assessed. It could be a melanoma.
There is a SunSmart App for mobile devices produced by the Victorian Cancer Council that helps with education and gives daily sun protection times based on the UV index and location.

To learn more about skin cancer facts and myths, read our blog.

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