You're never too old, or too
young, to be making big mistakes when it comes to protecting your skin. Case in
point: Melanoma rates are up across the board, but especially among women under
40, according to a new study by the Mayo Clinic. In fact, women under 40 are
eight times more likely to get skin cancer now than they were in 1970.
Seems surprising, right? "Certainly sunscreens weren't used as much four
decades ago," says lead researcher Jerry Brewer, MD, a dermatologist at
the Mayo Clinic. But while people are aware of the danger of sun exposure and
tanning beds, their behavior isn't changing, says Dr. Brewer.
It's not just the teenager mentality of nothing-bad-will-happen-to-me that's at
play here, say experts. There are a number of misconceptions endangering
everybody. Check out these skin care myths that could be putting your health at
Myth: A yearly mole check is all I need for screening.
you're not at high risk for skin cancers, once a year is enough, says Marina
Peredo, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Smithtown, NY. But if you're
fair, have a family history of melanoma, or have suffered several bad sunburns
in your life, you should see a dermatologist every six months.
Myth: I should apply sunscreen as soon as I get to the beach.
Fact: Slather it on at least one hour before you enter the
sun. "You need to give it a chance to absorb," says Tony Nakhla, MD,
a dermatologist and author of The Skin Commandments. If you wait,
you've already been exposed to harmful direct sunlight in the time it took you
to walk from your car to the sand.
Fact: Pair that mentality with some fair genetics and it's a
melanoma breeding ground, says Dr. Nakhla. When you give yourself a
"base," you're essentially double-dipping in harmful UVA/UVB rays.
There is no such thing as a base tan, tanned skin is damaged skin, and damaged
skin is, well, damaged.
Myth: My skin's naturally dark and never burns so I don't need
Fact: "Skin cancer is color-blind," says Jeanine
Downie, MD, a dermatologist in Montclair, NJ, and coauthor of Beautiful
Skin of Color. In fact, skin cancer rates are increasing among Latinos.
Plus, those with dark skin may not recognize the early stages of skin cancers
as easily as people with light skin.