FACTS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
“IT CAN’T HAPPEN TO ME”
Are you one of those people who believes that you will never be affected by cancer? This is perfectly natural, why should you be thinking about cancer all the time?
However, there are two situations when it would be advisable to give this possibility some consideration:
- firstly, if you take up a harmful habit: In the same way that smoking is linked to lung and laryngeal cancer, use of sun-beds for tanning and getting sunburnt is linked to melanoma and skin cancer
- secondly, if you get the chance to have a skin cancer screening. Eva (20)*, John (23)* or Lina (34)* could have been right in thinking that they wouldn’t ever have melanoma, but they weren’t. Luckily they went to a MelanomaMobil screening which saved their lives
* names have been changed to protect privacy. See our case studies.
“IT IS BETTER TO LEAVE THE MOLE ALONE BETTER NOT TO DISTURB IT”
This is one of the most dangerous misconceptions because this might stop you going to see a doctor. In the case of melanoma which is a disease that can develop on moles or can look like a mole, your chances of survival decrease when you delay treatment.
It is important to understand that surgery does not affect the mole and it does not cause changes to it. The worst case scenario is that a surgical intervention is done unnecessarily. Problems are caused by notremoving harmful things from the skin, like an early melanoma.
It is also important for your safety that moles are removed surgically using a scalpel and not by burning, laser, cryotherapy, scraping or in any other way.
“IT’S SAFER IF WE REMOVE ALL YOUR MOLES”
This is the only misconception that is not life-threatening, because the professional removal of moles is 100% safe. However removing all your moles would not be medically recommended. Each surgical intervention might leave a scar which could be unsightly.
There are some moles that need to be removed and there are others that don’t. This has to be decided by a specialist.
“IT DOESN’T HURT, SO IT CAN’T BE HARMFUL”
Malignant tumours do not hurt in the beginning. In fact they cause no apparent problems. Although melanoma is one of the most dangerous tumours, it grows almost unnoticeably and very rarely causes obvious problems for the patient. Don’t wait until it begins to bleed, because by then it might be too late!
“REMOVAL WITH LASER IS THE BEST SOLUTION “
It is absolutely medically inappropriate to remove moles with laser surgery, even if the moles are completely regular. If a tumour is suspected, using laser is considered malpractice.
The popularity and mystification of laser surgery is fed by two false beliefs, which are that laser surgery is painless and causes no scars. The laser system used by surgeons emits a special light that destroys the targeted tissues or cells. There are two problems with this: firstly, no histological report can be obtained after laser surgery, and secondly it is hard to determine whether the tumour has been completely removed. The stimulatory effect of sublethal laser radiation can potentially lead to cells becoming malignant.
Moles should only be removed with surgical excision followed by a histological examination.
“USING SUN-BEDS IS NOT WORSE THAN EXPOSURE TO SUNLIGHT”
The ultraviolet spectrum of sunlight is made up of both UVA and UVB radiation spectrums while tanning systems use 97% of UVA radiation.
UVB is responsible for sunburn, long term tanning and thickening of the upper skin layers which are all important factors in increasing the skin’s protection from sunlight. It is the UVB which causes us to get out of the sun because we start to feel sunburnt.
In sun-beds our skin is exposed mainly to UVA radiation which causes rapid tanning. The upper layer of the skin does not thicken so we do not get increased protection from sunlight and we don’t notice a sensation of burning. This means we lose a mechanism for noticing when we have become dangerously exposed to the harmful rays. UVA also penetrates into deeper layers of the skin and damages the tissues, causing premature wrinkling. Today it is unequivocally proven that UVA radiation is carcinogenic. Current medical opinion suggests that if you really want to have tanned skin, the safest option is to use fake tanning lotions or go to a spray tanning salon.
“IT IS NOT IMPORTANT WHERE I HAVE MY MOLES REMOVED!”
Theoretically it is not important who and where you go to have moles or other lesions removed or examined, but our experience has taught us better. It is worth looking out for a doctor who has experience in removing tumours, who can refer to an oncology dermatologist and who works together with a reliable team that has experience in the recognition and histological examination of moles and pigmented tumours
A surgeon who is experienced in oncology is aware of the safety margin requirements and knows how to cut the skin depending on lymph vessel positions.
A pathologist who is experienced in dealing with skin tumours knows exactly what parameters to include in the report, which are essential for the clinician in deciding what further steps need to be taken.
A patient who does not take the above criteria into consideration, might need to have another operation and waste valuable time waiting for the histological report to be re-evaluated and reissued.