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10 surprising things you didn’t know about skin cancer

10 surprising things you didn’t know about skin cancer
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Skin cancer pop quizzes aren’t super popular, but getting your facts straight – and being better informed – is always useful, and you never know when the trivia master is going to ask! 

#1. There is more wrinkling and skin cancer found on one side of the face. Depending which hemisphere you live in, more people will get right-sided or left-sided melanomas because of the position we drive in. Americans get more left-sided skin cancers on their faces, while Australians get more right-sided facial skin cancers.

#2. You can get melanoma in your eyes.Your eyes have melanin-producing cells that can develop into a melanoma, which might also be called ocular melanoma. Most eye melanomas form in the part of your eye that you can’t see when you look in the mirror, making it hard to detect. Eye melanoma doesn’t have many signs or symptoms, however treatment is available if the melanoma is caught in time. Vision is usually salvageable if the eye melanoma is small enough.

#3. Dark-skinned people can get melanomas too, and it’s deadlier. Bob Marley died of an undiagnosed melanoma under his toenail. He wouldn’t have noticed necessarily, since melanoma can look like a line or discolouration under the fingernails, toenails, palms of the hands or soles of the feet. The deadliness factor is likely due to melanomas being missed in darker-skinned people with the mistaken belief that they cannot get skin cancers.

#4. Curry and caffeine can reduce your skin cancer risk. A study of over 100,000 people found a link between those who drink a lot of caffeine and a lower rate of basal cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer. Curcumin, a hefty antioxidant found in turmeric (a key ingredient in curry), has anti-cancer effects that may slow or prevent the growth of skin or breast cancer.

#5. SPF100 does not mean 100 per cent protection. In fact, the sun protection factor (SPF) just means the amount of time it will take for your skin to burn, so SPF100 means 100 times as long to burn. SPF30 offers 300 minutes to burn, which is about five hours, but we sweat, swim, and the sunscreen wears off with clothing and touch, so it must be reapplied according to the directions, usually every few hours.

#6. Dermatologists want hairdressers onboard to detect moles. While you are getting your haircut, your hairdresser can identify key markers of skin cancer of the scalp, since skin cancer in this area may go undetected for years, despite the fact that the top of our heads may get more sun than any other part of our body.

#7. You can get skin cancer where the sun don’t shine. This means your vulva, penis, scrotum, and breasts (if you keep them tucked in when out in the sun) can still get skin cancers and melanomas. Don’t forget to have these areas checked at the skin cancer clinic – don’t be shy!

#8. You now have to watch out for UVC rays. UVC rays are shorter waves and don’t usually hit the earth’s surface, but ozone depletion means we are coming into contact with UVC rays more and more often. We’re not sure what that means for skin cancer, but UVC rays do cause redness and irritation. To protect against UVC rays, you need a mineral-based sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as its main ingredient.

#9. One indoor tanning session increases your risk of melanoma by 20 per cent. Tanning booths are cancer boxes. Get a spray tan or DIY with creams at home. If you have a history of tanning beds, you should visit your Melbourne skin cancer clinic to be assessed.

#10. Your computer light may be causing you skin damage. The bulbs used in offices or the light from your computer may be damaging your skin and eyes – it can make sun damage worse, discolour your skin and contribute to melasma. Wear sunscreen! All the time! And make an appointment with your cosmetic dermatologist at your Melbourne skin cancer clinic to be assessed for sun damage.

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