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Skin Cancer Facts and Myths: What You Should Know to Prepare You for the Summer Sun

Summer can be a bunch of fun, but it can also be terrible for your skin. Get your facts straight and get healthy this summer.


Spring is in the air, but summer is right around the corner.

Skin cancer becomes a concern for many people while they catch some rays, but we break down the myths and facts you need to know before you get ready to relax for some fun in the sun.

We put some of the biggest summer myths about the sun under the spotlight, and give you the bottom line on how you can protect yourself, and prevent yourself, from increasing your chances of skin cancer.

Myth: Self-tanner as a sun protector…

The Bottom Line: The only thing self-tanners do is stain the top layer of your skin with a bronze color…that’s it.

Several studies have shown that self-tanners actually increase sun damage, which increases your risk of skin cancer.

If you expose yourself to the sun after about an hour of applying self-tanner, your skin will produce more free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage cells, and can cause skin cancer.

Just remember: When in doubt, always wear sunscreen. Your health will thank you for it later.

Myth: I need to be tan, or else I will be vitamin D deficient…

The Bottom Line: Sunscreen will not cause you to become vitamin D deficient, which is surprisingly what about a third of Americans believe.

Using sunscreen will not cut your body’s production of vitamin D. Most people think that you have to be bronze and glowing in order for your body to produce enough vitamin D.

It’s better to protect yourself with too much sunscreen, than to have too much sun. Too many UV rays can actually cause your skin to break down vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient in the fight against skin cancer.

Instead of soaking in the sun for vitamin D, you can also eat foods that contain a good dose of this vitamin, such as salmon and eggs.

If these foods don’t strike your fancy, you can also take a daily vitamin D supplement.

Myth: Getting really tan on a special occasion won’t do any harm…

The Bottom Line: If you are outdoors often, or basking in the sun for long periods of time on your vacation, you are actually at risk of increasing your chances of getting skin cancer.

Men and women who frequently tan actually have 74% more moles than people who don’t. Having more moles than usual isn’t necessarily a good thing because more moles put you at a higher risk for melanoma.

Again, sunscreen should always be applied when you “play” outdoors.

Myth: The higher the SPF, the better the protection…

The Bottom Line: Just because a sunscreen has a higher SPF doesn’t mean that it does a better job at blocking UV rays.

Rule out basic math when it comes to SPF numbers, and your risk of skin cancer.

As long as a sunscreen with a lower SPF is applied correctly, it can block out a majority of the sun’s rays. For example: SPF 15 can actually block out 93 percent of UVB rays.

If you do sunburn easily, it may be wise to go with a sunscreen higher in SPF, but other than that, a lower SPF should do the job just fine.

Just remember: Regardless of what SPF you use, make sure that you reapply your sunscreen every two to three hours.

Remember that sunscreen is always the best choice this summer, especially if you want to reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Written By bistroMD Team. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on June 17, 2019.


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