Millions of Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer annually and over 80,000 diagnoses will be melanoma, skin cancer’s deadliest form.

Here are some common misperceptions and the real facts to dispell them:

Myth — It is impossible to get skin cancer in an area of the body that has never been exposed to the sun.

Fact — Sun exposure is a risk factor for developing skin cancer, these cancers can develop anywhere on the body regardless of direct sun exposure. The reasons why cancers develop are very complex and not entirely clear, involving both genetic and enviromental factors. We do know that one or more sunburns doubles the risk for skin cancer.

Myth — If I have a growth or mole that has been there “forever,” it can’t turn into a skin cancer.

Fact — Some melanomas develop as a new lesion, however many melanomas arise in preexisting moles that may be very familiar. It is important for you to become familiar with the growths on your body so that you are capable of recognizing any changes. Know the ABCDEs of melanoma.

Myth — Using sunscreen ensures I have 100% protection from the sun’s rays.

Fact — Most people do not apply enough sunscreen to truly protect their skin for the amount of time they spend outdoors. One ounce of sunscreen may protect you for a maximum of 1.5-2 hours, depending on your skin type and activity level. Always remember to reapply your sun screen frequently and seek shade when possible. Myth — I would know if I have a skin cancer on my body, wouldn’t I? Fact — Many people have no idea they have skin cancer. When melanoma is detected early, it is often 100% curable! Late detected melanomas are very often fatal, making them “silent killers.”

Understanding Skin Cancer

Excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or synthetic UV radiation from indoor tanning devices, are the major contributors of skin cancer. All skin cancers are managed best when detected early.

What to Look for:

Any skin cancer can appear suddenly as a new spot or develop slowly in or near an existing spot. In fair complected men, melanomas are most often found between the shoulders and hips, or the head and neck area. In fair complected women, melanomas most often develop on the lower legs as well as between the shoulders and hips. Any change in a spot needs the immediate attention of a Dermatologist.

To see what melanoma looks like and to read more information about this deadly disease, please visit our friends at the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation who provide the SunSmart America ™ K-12 Curriculum and Resources to help promote sun safety education, prevention and early detection of skin cancer.