Royer: The 6 Biggest Myths About Skin Cancer

Hugh Royer III, renowned golf instructor and former PGA TOUR player, is a skin cancer survivor who’s offered compelling testimony on the devastating impact the disease can have, and how recreational golfers can minimize their risks. Today, he wants you to be able to separate simple fact from fiction in gaining a better understanding of how to deal with it.

By Hugh Royer III

After a year of dealing with skin cancer that was misdiagnosed, I wanted to show in this space how naïve we as human beings can be about skin cancer. As with many physical issues, if caught early skin cancer can be removed, treated and managed effectively. The lack of knowledge about skin cancer is the biggest reason why it is the most common cancer, and affects nearly 4 million Americans a year.

Based on my experience, I can tell you that there are six big misconceptions about dealing with skin cancer.

Myth #1: All Physicians are Created Equal

There are many great skin cancer doctors in the U.S., but not all fit the needs of every patient. When a person is first diagnosed with skin cancer, their immediate reaction is to find a doctor or hospital. It is important to take the time to do research and find the best care physician and facility that fit the individual’s unique needs, and make the proper decision that will have a positive, long-term impact on their care.

Start by asking the doctor who first diagnosed you for his or her recommendations on the best specialists, hospitals and treatment facilities for your specific diagnosis. Use the American Cancer Society’s skin cancer fact sheet on how to choose and oncologist and cancer center.

Myth #2: All Slow-Growing Skin Cancers are Harmless

Some skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma are slow-growing. However, that doesn’t mean they are harmless. If left untreated these types of cancers can spread to other parts of the body. If a person finds any lesions or spots on their body that seem suspicious, they should contact a doctor immediately. If it turns out to be a form of skin cancer, your doctor can devise the best treatment plan and follow-up care to address the cancer issue.

Myth #3: If You Have Skin Cancer You Can Just Have It Cut Away – “No Big Deal”

Skin cancer is cancer: it can be cut off of the skin, but that’s not the end of the treatment. Once skin cancer is diagnosed and has been cut away, constant follow-ups with a physician are required to maintain the patient’s safety and well-being. If skin cancer is caught early enough, a 98 percent success rate is possible. With all the positives of early diagnosis, constant monitoring and examinations are required to prevent more serious situations. With the precautions needed to prevent further damage and threats to the patient, a skin cancer survivor’s daily life is never the same as it was pre-diagnosis.

Myth #4: “It’s Only Skin Cancer – Not Something Bad Like Breast Cancer”

It’s astonishing how some will shrug off skin cancer as “no big deal” when it can be as serious (if not more serious) than other forms of cancer. If not treated early on, skin cancer can become as life-threatening as any other cancer. If one or more major surgeries have been required to treat it, there is a 50 percent chance of recurrence, or even death. Maintaining constant awareness of the situation is a necessity for each patient.

Myth #5: Tanning Salons are a Safe Alternative to Sunlight

This is the single-biggest fallacy about skin cancer prevention. Tanning in a tanning bed as little as once a month under its ultraviolet lights can increase the risk of a deadly form of skin cancer occurring by 55 percent, and the danger is even greater when done in early adulthood. Tanning beds raise the risk of malignant melanoma, as well as other types of skin cancers. People who have visited a tanning salon are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than those who haven’t used a tanning salon. Tanning bed lights increase the risk of developing one of these three forms of cancer significantly.

Myth #6: You Don’t Need to Wear Sunscreen on a Cloudy Day

False! You can get sunburned and suffer skin damage on cloudy days. Cloud cover cools temperatures, and can make exposure more comfortable and last longer. The sun’s rays can still cause severe damage to the skin and eyes on overcast days, which is why sunscreen and sunglasses are essential preventive measures to take when you’re outdoors for any length of time. It is important to protect yourself every day.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers – but the easiest to treat if caught early. All three forms of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) are dangerous and can result in death, so vigilant checks and doctor visits will help in prevention as well as maintenance. Find a doctor you trust who instills confidence, and do constant self checks: it could save your life.

And always remember: “Protect Your Skin If You Want to Win.”

If you want to learn more about Hugh’s courageous recovery from the effects of skin cancer, click here.