Skin Cancer Myths vs. Facts

Myth: If I wear sunscreen, I can stay in the sun as long as I want.
Fact: Sunscreens don’t last forever. Here’s a quick way to figure out how long your sunscreen will protect you: multiply the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) by 10. The answer is how many minutes you can stay in the sun—then you need to cover up, go inside, or re-apply your sunscreen.

Myth: I’ll only get skin cancer if I lay out in the sun.
Fact: Every time you're outside, your skin is exposed to the sun.

Myth: A healthy tan will protect my skin.
Fact: A tan might look good to some people, but it really means your skin has been damaged. Producing melanin, which makes your skin look darker, is your skin cells’ response to damage from the sun. With repeated sun exposure over time, this damage can lead to skin cancer.

Myth: A tanning bed is a safe way to get a tan.
Fact: A tanning bed produces ultraviolet rays, just like the sun. In fact, a tanning bed can be even more dangerous than the sun. They produce mainly UVA radiation, which penetrates deeper into your skin, while sunlight contains a mix of UVA and UVB and gets filtered by the ozone layer. 

Myth: I don’t have to worry about skin cancer because my skin is naturally dark.
Fact: People with darker skin are still susceptible to skin cancer. In fact, melanoma in people of color is often missed until later stages resulting in poorer treatment outcomes. Even if you have naturally dark skin, you need to protect yourself from sun exposure and perform regular skin exams.

Myth: I don't need to begin screening for skin cancer until I'm in my 50s.
Fact: Skin cancer affects people of all ages. Protection from the sun should begin at birth, and regular skin exams should start at age 20. Individuals age 20 and older should learn how to perform a full-body skin exam at home, and they should also schedule a skin exam with their primary care physician or dermatologist each year.

Myth: I grew up going to the beach a lot, so skin cancer is inevitable
Fact: Even if you have had a significant amount of skin cancer, it doesn't mean that you will inevitably be diagnosed with skin cancer. If you always wore the proper protective clothing and used waterproof sunscreen appropriately, you may have effectively minimized the damage to your skin. However, it's still very important to have regular skin exams!

Myth: I don’t have insurance, so there isn't anything I can do
Fact: There are many resources available for those in our community who are uninsured or underinsured. The Santa Barbara County Clinics offer affordable healthcare. For more information, visit or call the Cancer Center's Wellness department at (805) 563-5856.

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