A spotlight on skin cancer: The myths and facts you need to know

How sun smart are you?

“Knowing the facts about skin cancer can help protect us from the disease, yet many of us don’t really know the risks or how we can prevent skin cancer,” said Dr. Daniel Sheehan, a dermatologic surgeon with Augusta University Health.

Check your knowledge with the following myths and facts:

Myth: All types of skin cancer look and behave the same way.

There are actually three types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common and least deadly. It may look like a nodule, a sore, an inflamed growth, or irritated skin. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a crusty or scaly patch of skin surrounded by red that resembles a tumor or non-healing wound. Melanoma is the least common and most dangerous form of skin cancer, often looking like a new mole or developing within an existing mole.

Myth: You can only develop skin cancer on parts of the body regularly exposed to sunlight.

Skin cancer can actually develop anywhere on the body, including inside the mouth. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most likely to begin on parts of the body not exposed to sunlight.

Myth: I have dark skin, so I’m not at risk.

Although those with fair skin do have an increased risk, the shade of your skin does not protect you from skin cancer. Anyone with a history of excessive sun exposure can develop the disease.

Myth: Short of avoiding sunlight altogether, there’s no good way to prevent skin cancer.

Protecting yourself from the sun IS the most effective way to combat skin cancer, but that doesn’t require staying indoors. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day — and reapply every two hours. Wear sun-protective clothing such as hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves when you can, and avoid the sun when it’s strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Have you noticed a change in your skin, or are you at increased risk for skin cancer? Don’t wait. Schedule an appointment for a screening with a dermatologist in our skin cancer program, which offers a team approach in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of skin cancer. Call 706-721-2273 (CARE) or 800-736-2273 (CARE).

About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.