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Common Myths about Skin Cancer

  • Myth: Children need a strong dose of natural sunlight to maintain good health.
  • Fact: It is true that a small amount of sunlight has health benefits. Sunlight, for instance, helps make vitamin D in the skin. However, only a few minutes of sunlight a day are necessary for adequate formation of vitamin D. Besides, most scientists agree that alternate sources of vitamin D in fortified foods, such as dairy products, are just as effective.
  • Myth: Skin cancer develops as part of the aging process, and you either get it or you don't.
  • Fact: The older you get, the more likely you are to get skin cancer. But evidence suggests that events occurring in childhood have a major influence on the development of skin cancer in adults. More and more people in their twenties and thirties are being treated for skin cancers and, occasionally, a teenager is affected.
  • Myth: In order for sunlight to cause skin cancer, you must get a sunburn.
  • Fact: People who sunburn are more likely to get skin cancer than those who do not, but sunlight damages the skin whether a sunburn occurs or not.
  • Myth: Sun damage is only temporary. The skin quickly repairs itself. By "resting" the skin between sun exposures, the damage is erased.
  • Fact: The skin can repair some of the superficial damage. That's why a sunburn lasts only a few days. But the underlying damage remains. Over the years, with each successive exposure to the sun, the damage accumulates. The results may not be apparent for 20 to 30 years.
  • Myth: A tanned child is a healthy child.
  • Fact: Most people like the look of a suntan. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. A tan is really a sign of injury to the skin. In an effort to protect itself from further damage, the skin cells produce a pigment called melanin, which darkens the skin. By the time the tan develops, permanent damage that will someday show up in the form of wrinkles, blotches, sagging tissue, and even skin cancer has already been done. So the term "healthy tan" is a contradiction in terms.