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Myths vs. Facts About Skin and Sun

Posted on: April 30th, 2019 by Shany Batbold

The month of May signals the glowing return of summer sun as days become brighter, longer and hotter. It’s no wonder why May is also Skin Cancer Awareness Month. In acknowledgement, CSI presents some myths and facts about skin and the sun — the leading cause of skin cancer according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Myth: If you put on sunscreen when you get to the beach, you’re fine.

Fact: Sunscreens take a full 30 minutes to become effective. You need to put on sunscreen before you get to the beach or any other outdoor summer destination. And remember, sunscreen only works if you put enough on – two tablespoons’ worth for your body and a nickel-sized dab for your face.  At CSI, we have sunscreens that do a great job protecting both the ocean and your skin.

Myth: Wearing a baseball cap is enough sun protection.

Fact: Logo baseball caps may be hip, but they offer little in the way of sun protection. Even less if worn backwards. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a hat with a brim extending at least three inches all the way around to shade not just your face and scalp but also your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas, which account for over 90 percent of skin cancers, most often appear on the head and neck so hold on to your hat whenever you’re outdoors.

Myth: Tanning beds are a safe way to tan without sun.

Fact: Ultraviolet light is ultraviolet light whether it’s from the sun or a machine. According to the AAD, exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma, especially in women 45 and younger. Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year. For a safer alternative, visit a spray-on tan salon or use a cosmetic bronzer like the ones made by Physicians Formula. But steer clear of self-tanning lotions. Although they are unlikely to cause cancer, stimulating melanin to produce a tan can lead to hyperpigmentation spots.

Myth: It doesn’t matter in what order you apply sunscreen and other products.

Fact: Whatever else you put on your face – toner, moisturizer, blemish medication – apply sunscreen last. Let any other product absorb for two to five minutes before generously slathering on sunscreen. Applying another product on top can dilute the sunscreen and alter its efficacy.

Myth: SPF and UPF mean the same thing.

Fact: They are similar but serve different purposes. Ultraviolet radiation, or UV, is present in sunlight. Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) indicates how well a fabric protects your skin from solar UV. “SPF” stands for Sun Protection Factor and is the rating for sunscreens and other sun-protective cosmetics. It measures the amount of time it takes for sun-exposed skin to develop sunburn. The higher the SPF, the longer it will protect you. SPF 30 is the gold standard for every day while SPF 50 is best for summer outdoor activities.

Myth: You need UV exposure for vitamin D.

Fact: Most people get adequate vitamin D from incidental sun exposure on their face and hands in only a few minutes each day. During winter, fortified foods and supplements are enough. Additional UV exposure over the minimum will not further increase vitamin D levels, but it will increase your skin cancer risk.

Myth: Only old people get skin cancer.

Fact: While it is true that men over 50 have a higher risk of developing skin cancer, younger people are still at risk. Melanoma – the deadliest type of skin cancer – is the second most common form of cancer in females ages 15-29. This rate jumped 800 percent in women of this age group between 1970 and 2009 and continues to increase six percent per year.

Myth: Skin cancer is very treatable so getting it is not a big deal.

Fact: It’s true that both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most prevalent skin cancers, are curable if detected early and treated properly. But it is also true that 20 Americans die every day from melanoma. In 2019, it is estimated that 7,230 U.S. deaths will be attributed to melanoma and 4,420 deaths from skin cancers other than melanoma.

Make an appointment today to see your CSI dermatologist for a skin cancer screening!