The online world can be a breeding ground for misinformation; where everyone on social media is an amateur doctor, where search engines dish out diagnoses, and where conspiracy theorists sprout ‘alternative facts’ aimed at letting you know that you don’t need to worry about disease and illness one day, and telling you we’re all doomed the next.
While often we can laugh off the lunacy and keep scrolling, misinformation about health issues can literally be a matter of life and death.
This is particularly true when it comes to one of Australia’s deadliest cancers: skin cancer and melanoma.
The fact is regular skin checks can detect skin cancer early and at a stage where it can be treated.
Yet, thanks to widely believed myths, many don’t get a skin check until it’s too late.
That’s why it’s time to bust those myths and set the record straight about skin cancer and melanoma.
Skin cancer myth #1: ‘I don’t have any moles, so I won’t get melanoma’
Having few or no moles is no guarantee against skin cancer.
In fact, most melanomas appear on regular skin, not pre-existing moles.
It is true that the number and types of moles you have increases your risk of developing melanoma, but most melanomas don’t come from the moles you already have.
Skin cancer myth #2: ‘I don’t get sunburn anymore, so I won’t get melanoma’
Very few Australians can look back on their childhoods and say they never experienced sunburn.
It’s widely accepted as just part of growing up in the sunburnt country. But now that we’re grown-ups and know to keep out of the sun, we’re good, right? Wrong.
There’s a mountain of research that tells us that experiencing sunburn at a young age is one of the most significant factors in developing skin cancer later in life, and this is clearly backed up on experience with Australians who grew up here, compared to those recently arrived from abroad.
However, if you’re new to Australia, that doesn’t mean you’re protected. Cumulative exposure to the sun is also a key risk factor – every bit of exposure to the sun counts.
Skin cancer myth #3: ‘Melanoma isn’t that serious’
Let’s debunk this myth with a couple of facts: melanoma is actually the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, and melanoma kills one Australian every six hours.
It may not have quite the high profile of other cancers, like breast and prostate cancers, but melanoma is up there with the big guns of cancer.
And just as you diligently schedule in your breast screen or prostate exam appointments, skin checks for melanoma should also be part of your health routine.
It’s a sad fact that while some consider skin cancer to affect people later in life, melanoma takes more young lives than any other cancer. It’s a confronting statistic, but one that is largely preventable.
Also, men have poorer survival outcomes from melanoma than women. Melanoma thickness is the single most important variable for melanoma survival and men tend to develop thicker melanomas.
Regular skin checks and early detection can head the thickness off, but sadly, the common reluctance of men to visit a doctor means it is often too late.
Skin cancer myth #4: ‘I tan well so I don’t have to worry about melanoma’
While some still equate a tan with health and vitality, the fact is there is no such thing as a ‘healthy tan’.
Tanning is your body’s way of protecting your cells by creating a layer of pigment.
So, if you have a tan, your body is experiencing DNA damage – and it’s this DNA damage that leads to skin cancer.
Skin cancer myth #5: ‘I don’t really need regular skin checks’
Two out of three Australians will experience skin cancer in their life, and your greatest weapon against it is regular skin checks.
Doctors agree that early detection of melanoma saves lives. Detecting the melanoma while they are thin has significantly better survival rates.
Annual skin checks are not something that should be put off. It’s advised that you schedule an annual skin check – and keep it – because it’s unlikely that melanoma will kill you in a year.
If you have any skin cancer concerns, it’s best to simply get checked.
Book your skin cancer check today
Don’t put it off any longer, book an appointment for a skin cancer check with Bass Coast Skin Doctors now.
Bass Coast Skin Doctors offer full-body skin checks and state-of-the-art mole mapping, and importantly, peace of mind.
Skin checks are important, not just because they are offer the greatest protection against developing fatal melanoma.
Skin checks are important because for every case of skin cancer, there are family and friends who wish dearly those appointments had been made and kept.