A British foot doctor made headlines in London Thursday, claiming that British women should put their flip-flops away because their sandals are causing an increase in skin cancer.
If something about that story smells rotten, it isn’t the sandals.
“Cancer threat: Hollywood babe Linsey Lohan steps out in flip-flops,” London’s Daily Mail wrote on Thursday. “They are terribly comfortable, and terribly fashionable. But flip-flops and sandals could also be terribly bad for your health. Experts have warned that such flimsy footwear increases our risk of skin cancer.”
Trouble is, the story is based on bad information. There is no data whatsoever to suggest that skin cancer is increasing on the feet. None.
“The misinformation from the sources quoted in this article is inexcusable,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy wrote in a letter to the Daily Mail. “It is well-established in the medical literature that UV light has nothing to do with the type of skin cancer that occurs on the soles of your feet — a rare form of skin cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma. For a doctor to attempt to tie this in with sandal-wearing is ridiculous.”
Levy also pointed out that the doctors quoted in the story allege that feet — covered in the winter and early spring — are less acclimated to the sun, which means they do not have a base tan like arms or legs. “Isn’t it interesting that the authorities in this story allege that feet are more susceptible to skin cancer because they have not developed a ‘base coat’ like the arms do?” Levy asked. “That’s funny: in most stories dermatologists blast sun tanning, claiming there is no such thing as a ‘base coat’ and that base tans aren’t protective. So which is it now?”
Confused? Protect your feet from sunburn just as you would the rest of your skin. That’s the best advice. If you’re fair skinned, use sunscreen when sunburn is a possibility. “But don’t be afraid of your shoes,” Levy said. “That’s just over-the-top ‘sun scare.'”