Dr. Deepak H, Consultant, Surgical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre Kalaburgi.
Skin is the largest and most active sense organ in the body. It performs a multitude of crucial duties for the body’s basic functions. One of the major functions of skin is that it protects the internal organs from the outside world. In recent times, there is a significant rise in cancer rates due to environmental stresses that can have an impact on the skin and raise the risk of skin cancer. Although there are several risk factors for skin cancer, UV radiation from sunlight is considered the main cause of skin malignancies.
Early detection of skin cancer can increase the chance of cure and recovery, like any other cancer. Hence, it is important to be aware of the early signs of skin cancer which include changes in the appearance of a mole, skin changes after a mole has been removed, itchiness, persistent oozing, a sore or spot that won’t go away, scaly patches, vision problems, changes in your fingernails or toenails.
There are several myths around skin cancer that need to be debunked and facts need to be stated for better awareness. Here are some of them.
Myth: Dark-skinned people don’t get skin cancer
Fact: This, however, is not true. While most commonly, skin cancer is seen among patients who are of light skinned, considerable number of dark-skinned people too develop skin cancer. Melanoma, one kind of skin cancer that happens in light skinned people, is commonly found to occur on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet among dark-skinned people. Pigmented basal skin carcinoma, another kind of skin cancer is more commonly found in dark-skinned people.
Myth: Only exposure to the Sun causes skin cancer
Fact: While Sun exposure is one of the main causes of skin cancer, it is not the only cause. Skin cancer causes an alteration in the genetic makeup of the skin cells. Once that happens, there are several other factors that can cause skin cancer to develop. This change in genetic makeup of skin causes cancer in the areas that are not exposed to the sun like the genitals.
Myth: Any sunscreens are good to prevent skin cancer
Fact: Sunscreens with higher SPFs – a measure of how much solar energy (UV radiation) is required to produce sunburn on protected skin, are better. A minimum SPF of 30 is recommended in sunscreen to enhance skin protection against UV rays of the Sun.
Myth: Only older people get skin cancer
Fact: This is untrue. While a majority of people getting skin cancer are those above 60, youngsters also get it. Over the last few years, skin cancer has become more common in the younger generation too. Melanoma type skin cancer is also a major health concern.
Myth: Skin cancer is not deadly
Fact: Unfortunately, it’s not true. Non-melanoma skin cancers tend not to be deadly only when they are detected early and treated appropriately. It is extremely crucial to detect skin cancer as early as possible as it leads to fewer complications.
These and several other myths have led to various misconceptions about skin cancers which have led to delayed diagnosis and inadequate treatment. All these can be avoided if these myths are debunked at the right time.