Neutrogena Study Shows More Skin Cancer Education Needed


A recent Neutrogena-sponsored study has revealed that more consumer education about preventing skin cancer is needed along with debunking common skin care myths.

The national survey, commissioned by Neutrogena and executed by Harris Interactive, showed that just 13% of all women in the U.S. wear sunscreen on a daily basis and 56% of women surveyed believe the growing rate of skin cancer is due to lack of education.

"There are many misconceptions about who can get skin cancer and how you get skin cancer," says dermatologist Darrell Rigel, MD. "The fact that melanoma is the most preventable cancer yet still on the rise, shows that more education is needed."

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime, according to the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. However, Neutrogena's study revealed that 76% of Caucasian women and 63% of Hispanic women use sunscreen to protect themselves from skin cancer. In comparison, less than half, or 46%, of African-American women use sunscreen.

A common belief is that darker skin tones offer a natural barrier from the sun's damaging rays and the Neutrogena study reveals that these myths can often lead to lax and dangerous sun safety behavior. While 76% of all women believe daily sunscreen use is important in helping prevent skin cancer, the average woman doesn’t begin using it until she is nearly 30-years-old, long after significant skin damage has already been done.

Neutrogena and Dr. Rigel are seeking to educate women through a focused campaign as they dispel common skin cancer myths such as:

1. MYTH: “I am not at risk of getting skin cancer from sun exposure, because my routine (work, drive to work, indoor hobbies, and vacations) doesn't include any outdoor activities.”

However, dermatologists say brief sun exposures throughout the year can add up to significant damage for everyone, especially those with fair skin.

2. MYTH: “SPF 30 is all the SPF protection I need; anything higher is all the same.”

But the doctor says that if you don’t apply enough sunscreen (one ounce for your body and one tablespoon for your face) or you apply your sunscreen incorrectly, it may result in a lower SPF than the labeled protection level. Higher SPF sunscreens also provide additional sunburn protection under extreme UV conditions. For those who might be prone to applying insufficient amounts of sunscreen, look for an SPF 50 or higher sunscreen with Helioplex technology.

3. MYTH: “An annoying mole or sore that won't go away is just that―annoying, nothing to worry about.”

But the experts say that sometimes an annoying sore that will not go away, or a mole that has changed in size or color, is actually something more serious and possibly an early form of skin cancer. An annual skin cancer screening is necessary to identify cancer in its early stages. Neutrogena and the ASDS urge people to take skin health seriously and sign up for a free skin cancer screening with a dermatologist in their community at

4. MTYH: “A tanning bed is safer than UV rays from the sun.”

However, research has revealed that exposure to the ultraviolet light from tanning beds can impact your skin in a variety of ways including wrinkles, sun spots and freckles. Neutrogena recommends using sunless tanning products for a streak-free, all-over tan without damaging skin.

5. MYTH: “Dark-skinned men and women are not at risk for sun damage and skin cancer.”

Although women with naturally dark skin have a much lower risk of skin cancer than those who are fair-toned, this does not make them immune to skin cancer, the study warns. Cases of skin cancer in people with darker skin are often not detected until later stages, when it is more dangerous. The overall melanoma survival rate for African-Americans is only 77% versus 91% for Caucasians.

6. MYTH: “Since summer is almost over and the sun isn't as strong, I don't need to wear sunscreen every day.”

However, experts warn that the sun's harmful rays are as deadly during the colder seasons as they are during summer. In fact, even under cloud cover, it is possible for the sun to harm your skin and eyes, so it is important to protect yourself with sunscreen, sunglasses and protective clothing even in cloudy weather.

7. MYTH: “Only UVB radiation can cause skin damage.”

The fact is that both UVA and UVB rays cause sunburns and damaging effects such as skin cancer. UVB rays account for 80% of the sun's damage and UVA for 20%, so Neutrogena recommends that consumers opt for a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen that protects from both. Although not all broad-spectrum sunscreens are equally effective, the company says. For the best in sun protection, look for broad-spectrum sunscreens with at least SPF 30, especially those with sunscreen technology like Helioplex that are formulated with the ideal balance of UVA and UVB filters.

8. MYTH: “Teenagers and young people don't have to worry about skin cancer. It only affects older adults.”

But studies have shown that melanoma is the most common form of cancer in young adults 25- to 29- years-old. It is also increasing faster in women in the 15- to 29-year-old age group than in men of the same age group.

To view a sun protection PSA from Gabrielle Union and learn more about skin cancer prevention, click here.

More in Physiology