Melanoma Myths & Facts

Myths & Facts

Safe sun practices will cause Vitamin D deficiency.
While exposure to the sun is a good source of Vitamin D, it is still important to cover up with sunscreen or protective clothing. Your body’s Vitamin D requirements can be achieved with a healthy diet and the use of supplements, which are affordable and safe, even for children.[25]

You can’t get sun damage on a cloudy day
Even if you can’t see your shadow, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate through clouds and fog [26].

The higher the SPF the less risk I’m at risk
SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor, indicates how protected your skin is from UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens above SPF 50 offer only marginally better protection against UV rays than SPF 30-50. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB rays.

  • As noted by the New Canadian Sunscreen Monograph, only sun products with a UVA protection at least proportional to 1/3 of the UVB protection along with a critical wavelength of at least 370 nm will be considered broad spectrum [27]

Some ingredients in sunscreen can cause cancer
Current research shows that when used as directed, sunscreens are safe and effective. It recommended using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher as one important part of a complete sun protection program [28].

Tanning beds are safer than tanning outdoors

  • Tanning beds emit approximately 12 times more UVA radiation than the sun. While this may make it seem like outdoor tanning is a safer option, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a safe tan. Even small amounts of UV radiation can cause skin cancer. Tanned skin is damaged skin.[29]
  • Even spray tans can pose a certain risk since they involve inhalation of chemicals whose effects are not yet known.[30]
  • The only tanning method we can recommend is self-tanning. This involves applying a cream to stain the top layer of the skin and give the appearance of a tan without causing any damage to the cells. However, it’s important to take care not to apply any product near the eyes, lips, or mucous membranes; these products are designed for external use only.[31]

People of color don’t get skin cancer
People with darker skin can still get melanoma. In particular, acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is an aggressive skin cancer that disproportionately affects dark-skinned people. It is most often found as a suspicious growth in the mucous membranes, on the palms of the hands, in the nail beds and on the soles of the feet [32]. These areas have less melanin and are far more likely to be ignored. While melanoma is far more commonly diagnosed in fair-skinned people, dark-skinned people must remain vigilant. Dermatology experts recommend regular full-body skin self-exams and checking the places ALM normally develops[33] .

Sunscreen contains harmful chemicals
This has been a controversial topic since 2017 when reports emerged of children having adverse skin reactions following sunscreen application. However, Health Canada tested nearly 30 sunscreens according to FDA compliance and found no health concerns. Find the complete list of tested sunscreens here:

A “base tan” eliminates the need for sunscreen
A tan on the skin provides an SPF of about 4, which offers extremely minimal sun protection. It’s always good practice to wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.[34]

Skin cancer only affects older people
In fact, melanoma is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in young adults aged 15-29. Its incidence in this age group has been steadily increasing since the 1980s, which is why it’s important for young people to be vigilant about sun exposure and taking the proper protective measures.[35]

Applying sunscreen in the morning will protect you when you’re out in the sun all day
Chances are you’re not using enough sunscreen. Health Canada recommends using a shot glass’ worth of sunscreen every time you apply it. Sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 should also be reapplied at least every 2 hours – or more often if you are swimming, toweling off, or sweating heavily.[36]

You can’t get a sunburn in the winter
UV rays are reflected off the bright surface of the snow, which can almost double your UV exposure. In addition to this, UV rays are stronger at high altitude, so if you’re going skiing, don’t neglect sunscreen use.[37]

One sunburn isn’t a big deal – skin cancer only happens with repeated sun exposure

  • One sunburn does not mean that you will certainly develop skin cancer. Your body has mechanisms in place to repair some of the DNA damage done, but these mechanisms are far from perfect. Skin damage builds up over time, increasing with every sunburn.[38]
  • Actually, just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence increases your risk of developing melanoma later in life. It’s important to always protect yourself if you’re going to be out in the sun.[39]

Sunscreen alone is enough to protect you from sun damage.
Even if you’re applying an adequate amount of sunscreen at the proper frequency, this doesn’t fully protect your skin from UV rays. An SPF 30 sunscreen will protect you from about 97% of UV rays, meaning your skin is still receiving small amounts of radiation. It is important to use other sun protection strategies in conjunction with sunscreen, such as seeking shade and covering up with clothing (like wide-brimmed hats, tightly-woven materials, and UV-blocking sunglasses).[40]

A tan doesn’t pose the same skin cancer risk as a sunburn.
Even if your skin tans (rather than burns) when exposed to sun, any change in your natural skin colour constitutes a sign of skin damage.[41]

Melanoma only develops from moles on the skin.
Actually, only 20 to 30% of melanomas originate in existing moles. The majority of cases arise in the skin that looks normal until the melanoma forms. It’s important to perform self-checks, follow the ABCDEs (see herePrevention), and seek medical attention when you deem it necessary.[42]


Skin Cancer Foundation
Valeant Cosméderme – Updated Canadian sunscreen monograph
Canadian Living – Your guide to buying the best sunscreen


[25]Rosen, C.J. and de Paula, F.J.A. (2012). Vitamin D Safety and Requirements. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 523(1). doi: 10.1016/
[26]”Skin Cancer Myths vs. Facts.” Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin Cancer Foundation, 2015. Web. 02 June 2015.
[27] “Sunscreen Monograph, Version 2.0.” The New Canadian Sunscreen Monograph. Valeant Cosméderme, 7 July 2012. Web. 2 June 2015. .
[28] “Skin Cancer Myths vs. Facts.” Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin Cancer Foundation, 2015. Web. 02 June 2015.
[29]John Stoddard Cancer Center. “Tanning Bed vs. Sun: Which is More Dangerous?”. LiveWell, 2015.
[30]“Why is tanning dangerous?”. Melanoma Research Foundation, n.d.
[31]Venosa, A. “Fake it to Make it: Sunless Tanning Explained”. Skin Cancer Foundation, 2017.
[32]Cimons, Marlene. “Many Blacks Are Unaware of a Skin Cancer That Primarily Affects Dark-skinned People.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 4 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 June 2015.
[33] ibid.
[34]Robb-Nicholson, C. “By the way, doctor: Is a tanning bed safer than sunlight?”. Harvard Health Publishing, 2009.
[35]“Melanoma Fact Sheet”. Melanoma Research Foundation, 2015.
[36]”Poster: Sunscreen Tips”. Health Canada, 2018.
[37]“Sun safety throughout the seasons”. Government of Canada, 2018.
[38]Witt, J. “12 sun safety myths debunked”. Cancer Research UK, 2016.
[39]”Risk factors for melanoma skin cancer”. Canadian Cancer Society, n.d.
[40]Wang, S.Q. “Ask the Expert: Does a High SPF Protect My Skin Better?”. Skin Cancer Foundation, 2018.
[41]“10 Cancer Myths Debunked”. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, n.d.
[42]Geggel, L. “Deadly Melanoma May Not Show Up as a Mole”. Live Science, 2015.