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The TRUTH About Skin Cancer

As you may know, American Cancer Society has generated a Cancer Calendar. Each month is dedicated to raising awareness about 1 or more types of cancer.

Starting TODAY, I will post important information about the cancer(s) of the month. I will post Facts vs Myths about each and provide you with tips to prevent, reduce your risk, and protect yourself against risk factors.

May is the awareness month for Melanoma, Brain, and Bladder Cancers.

I will start with Melanoma today. Stay tuned for more!

Melanoma Quick Facts:

Risk factors:

I- Light, fair skin, light overall complexion, moles, family history/genetics.

II- Compromised immune system (chemo, organ transplant, HIV/AIDS)

III- Genetic mutations/alterations in some genes (BRAF, P53 among others)

Myths vs Facts:

Myth OR Fact?

You should avoid the sun at all cost or you will get skin cancer.

Myth. Surprised? Healthy exposure to sunlight not only does NOT cause skin cancer, but it is GOOD for you. The BEST source of Vitamin D, a powerful antioxidant that actually protects against many cancers comes from direct sunlight.

Myth OR Fact?

The strongest sunscreen is best and will protect against cancer.

Myth. YES, that is a myth. In fact FDA published recently that SPF higher than 30 is very unreliable and questionable.

Moreover, do you think our cavemen ancestors used sunscreen? NO, they stayed in the shade periodically when the sun was very hot. They avoided sunburn.

Myth OR Fact?

Sunscreen can be harmful to your health and damaging to the environment.

Fact. Why is this a fact?

  1. Sunscreen is made of chemicals that are strong enough to block the UV lights, doesn’t that tell you something?

  2. Your skin is the largest organ in your body and therefore provides a large surface area for the absorption of toxic chemicals such as Oxybenzone, which is a major component in most sunscreens. This chemical is known to cause irritations, allergic reactions, among other things. Human skin can absorb between 0.4% to 8.7% of oxybenzone after one topical application of sunscreen, as measured in urine excretions. This number can increase after multiple applications over the same period of time. Oxybenzone is particularly marketed as effective because it is the most strongly penetrated through the skin and is highly Lipophilic (OR Fat loving) of the three most common UV filters, and therefore sticks to the skin fat cells and gets absorbed. Also, recent studies showed that Oxybenzone is toxic to coral reefs and bleaches corals. See Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

Myth OR Fact?

Some sunscreens may cause cancer.


Retinyl palmitate is a form of vitamin A that is found in many sunscreen products. When it is exposed to sunlight, it can promote growth of cancerous tumors and form free-radicals that damage DNA, according to a 2009 study by the FDA.



  • Be smart about length and amount of direct exposure. Daily exposure to sunlight in small to moderate doses is fine.

  • Take periodic breaks and enjoy small doses.

  • Eat natural fats that protect your skin against UV: these come in fish, fish oil, sardines etc.

  • ALL vegetables and fruits have lots of protective antioxidants. One of the ways UV damages DNA is creating Free Radicals. Antioxidants fight Free Radicals.

  • Vitamin D and Vitamin E are 2 fat soluble vitamins that also protect against UV damage.

  • Stay hydrated. Dry skin is more prone to damage.

  • Get daily healthy dose of Vitamin D from the sun, counterintuitive right? Vitamin D is cancer protective


  • Repeatedly be exposed to LONG direct sunlight when it is the strongest and hottest (around 11am -2pm).

  • Repeatedly get sunburns, especially if you have fair skin.

  • Smoke or drink alcohol

  • Consume toxic foods, instead enjoy a clean healthy diet

  • Put harmful chemicals on your skin.

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