According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. More than 5.4 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed annually. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and according to the American Cancer Society, more than 96,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019.
These are pretty serious statistics, yet too many people are unaware of the causes of skin cancer and the measures that you can take to lower your risk of developing skin cancer.
True and False Quiz: Causes of Skin Cancer
I have a dark complexion, so my risk of developing skin cancer is less.
FALSE. While it's true that some people are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others due to certain risk factors, anyone can develop skin cancer. Having dark skin is not 100% protection.
UV rays are the only cause of skin cancer.
FALSE. While the sun's UVA and UVB rays are the primary cause of damage to the skin that can lead to skin cancer (UV rays from artificial sources such as tanning bed are also linked), these rays are not the only risk factor.
Those who have undergone an organ transplant or have a weakened immune system due to chronic conditions, or have been diagnosed with specific diseases of the skin such as xeroderma pigmentosum or Gorlin's syndrome (also called basal cell nevus syndrome) have a greater chance of developing some form of skin cancer.
If it's cloudy, there is less risk for me from the sun's rays.
FALSE. The sun's rays can go through clouds, and for that matter, water as well. If you're outdoors, protect yourself by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing.
"Apply it and forget it" is bad advice when it comes to sunscreen.
TRUE. Sunscreen works well, but only if you have enough of it on during the time you're exposed. Apply it about 15 to 20 minutes ahead of exposure to the sun, and then re-apply every two hours or more often if you've been swimming, running or sweating. SPF 30-50 sunscreen is recommended due to its 97-98% blockage of UVB rays.
Tanning protects my skin from skin cancer.
FALSE. Tanning can cause damage to your skin's DNA, and the darkening of your skin is your body's attempt to prevent further DNA damage. Such changes to your skin may lead to skin cancer, so it's important to take care of your skin- it's the only one you get!
American Cancer Society
American Academy of Dermatology Association
Skin Cancer Foundation
National Human Genome Research Institute
NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference
National Institute on Aging