Melanoma Myths

Some myths can be fun or interesting. Who hasn’t wondered if there really is a living dinosaur concealed beneath the cold waves of Scotland’s Loch Ness? Or if some supernatural force is responsible for the disappearances of numerous ships and planes that were travelling across the infamous Bermuda Triangle?

Myths about health and disease, however, are a whole different ballgame. Believing the wrong ones can lead to injury, sickness and even death.

Melanoma is a potentially fatal disease that can, nevertheless, be either prevented or cured by people who know and abide by the facts. In this blog we present 8 common melanoma myths, followed by the actual truth behind each one.

We urge you to save this vital information for yourself, and to post it on your social media platforms.

MYTH:

It’s just a skin cancer, something small on your skin can’t kill you.

FACT:

Yes, it can. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) predicts that over 13,000 Americans will be killed by some form of skin cancer in 2018. That averages out to more than 1 American death every hour of every day. Size doesn’t matter.

MYTH:

By the time you know you have it it’s too late.

FACT:

This assumption can easily cost someone his or her life. While it’s true that melanoma can be fatal, it’s the timing of the diagnosis and treatment that determines the ultimate outcome. If caught early enough, melanoma has nearly a 100% cure rate. The mortality risk continues to rise with the passage of time. Which is why suspicious skin growths must be examined by a dermatologist without delay.

MYTH:

Melanomas are always black.

FACT:

No, they’re not. Melanomas can be black. But they can also be blue-black, dark brown, brown-red, red, pink, grey, flesh-tone, or light to medium brown. Click here to read more facts about the two main types of the disease, nodular and radial, in greater detail.

MYTH:

If you get melanoma you need radiation and chemo to treat it.

FACT:

A melanoma diagnosis is confirmed after a pathologist examines the excised mole or other skin growth. The excision (which includes a small amount of the surrounding healthy tissue) usually takes place in-office. If the malignancy is caught early enough, the excision itself is usually the cure. If it has gone beyond that, dermatologists have numerous treatment options at their disposal. They will employ the treatment that best suits a given patient’s condition. Chemo and radiation are generally ineffective against melanoma.

MYTH:

Teens and children don’t get melanoma.

FACT:

Melanoma can develop at any time, from the day we’re born until the day we die. This is an equal opportunity disease that plays no favorites. It doesn’t care about age, gender, color or race. Parents and guardians have a responsibility to educate and protect their children from skin cancer, and step one is learning the truth. It’s difficult to imagine anything in life worse than a terminally ill child. Click on the link to read the facts about childhood melanoma.

MYTH:

Your primary care doctor can tell you if you have melanoma.

FACT:

General practitioners usually lack sufficient training to accurately determine what’s actually melanoma, and what is merely a benign growth or a melanoma mimic. Even a trained dermatologist can’t always tell if a suspicious skin growth is cancerous just by looking. The difference, however, if he or she has the experience, diagnostic technology and resources that a GP does not.

MYTH:

It takes months to get an appointment with a dermatologist.

FACT:

While it’s true that many dermatologist appointments are scheduled a few months in advance, they can be expedited when a patient detects something suspicious on his or her skin. In such cases call your dermatologist, tell him or her that you have a growth that looks like a photo of a melanoma, and request to receive any open time slot he or she may have. Or any opening due to a cancellation. If after a week you haven’t been seen, there are other options. You can learn more about them through this link.

MYTH:

Sunscreen with a high SPF will protect you from skin cancer and melanoma.

FACT:

It depends. In order to receive the full SPF (Sun protection factor) effect, the sunscreen must be applied correctly. The typical person uses only 25% of what’s needed to obtain that full effect. An SPF 100 sunscreen applied at 25% has an effective SPF of only 3.1. If you are in a swimsuit, you need to apply an amount equivalent to a full shot glass (more for larger/taller people). Every inch of exposed skin should be evenly covered, and it should be re-applied every 2 hours at minimum. Even sooner if you have been swimming or sweating.

MYTH:

Getting a base tan before going on vacation to a warm sunny country or state will protect you from skin cancer.  

FACT:

Getting a base tan to protect against skin cancer is like eating doughnuts to avoid obesity. This is one of the more egregious skin cancer myths out there, and it needs to be quickly put to rest. Any unprotected sun exposure, either natural or artificial, can cause skin damage, skin cancer and/or melanoma.

When the subject is melanoma, it’s just the facts, ma’am (and sir). Just the facts.

*Additional information source articles: AAD, BBC.com

To visit our websites, please click: Skincheck.org and/or Melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

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