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- Skin cancer didn’t emerge in the last 60 years. It has been recognized by scientists since at least 1804.
An Instagram video claims that skin cancer has been around only for decades.
"Skin cancer is a relatively new phenomenon in the last 60 years or so," says text on the post that a speaker later repeats. The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The video, which shows scenes of people outside in the sun, included audio of an unidentified woman describing what she says is a Baylor University study about exposing animals to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
She said 25% of animals fed "the standard American diet, which is terrible," got skin cancer, while none of the animals fed a "highly nutritious diet" did. Then she made the claim that is written on the video, that skin cancer emerged only in the past 60 years.
We traced the clip to an infomercial featuring Dr. Lorraine Day, posted to YouTube in 2014. Day is a surgeon who sells products that she claims cure cancer by natural means. In recent years, she spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, saying people who have been tested for the virus were unknowingly being vaccinated.
Baylor University told Reuters in 2022 that it has no record of the study Day refers to.
Scientists have recognized skin cancers for more than 200 years, since at least 1804, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
That year, Rene Laennec, who invented the stethoscope, was the first to identify melanoma, a type of skin cancer, as a distinct disease, according to the journal Melanoma Research.
Skins cancers are the most common type of cancer in the U.S.
Scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation — which the sun emits — is a major risk factor for skin cancer.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society say most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to UV light, and sunlight is the main source of UV radiation.
Other sources of ultraviolet rays include sunlamps, tanning beds and black-light lamps.
We rate the claim that "skin cancer is a relatively new phenomenon in the last 60 years or so" False.
PolitiFact staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
Instagram, post, July 28, 2023
Facebook, post, March 8, 2022
YouTube, Green Fuse "Lorraine Day" post (16:10), June 18, 2014
PolitiFact, "Other sources of ultraviolet rays include sunlamps, tanning beds and black-light lamps," May 11, 2023
Reuters, "Fact Check-Evidence shows sun exposure, not diet, causes skin cancers," July 25, 2022
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, "The history of skin cancer," May 2015
Melanoma Research, "A Brief History of Melanoma: From Mummies to Mutations," April 2012
Lead Stories, "Fact Check: Sunscreen Does NOT Cause Skin Cancer -- And Neither Does Bad Diet," March 24, 2022
AFP Factcheck, "Medical experts discredit claims that Covid-19 swabs are vaccines in disguise," Oct. 28, 2021
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