Staying Sun Safe: Confessions of a Former Tanner

Sandra A. Fryhofer, MD


May 03, 2011

In This Article

Dispelling Myths

A Pre-vacation Tan Protects My Skin: FALSE

Getting a base tan does not protect your skin. The AAP's new policy statement helps clarify this often-held misconception. The increased pigmentation promoted by a pre-vacation tan is equivalent to an SPF of 3, but in the process, skin DNA is damaged. A pre-vacation tan's false sense of protection translates into less use of protective sunscreen. The end result is additional sun-induced DNA damage.[1]

I Have Dark Skin So I Don't Need Sunscreen: FALSE

The AMA has helped dispel this myth. Skin of all colors needs sun protection. People with darker skin still have to worry about skin cancer. At its June 2010 meeting, the AMA adopted a resolution about skin cancer prevention in communities of color. The latest statistics show rising rates of skin cancer in African Americans and Hispanics. When these minority groups do get cancer, they have lower 5-year survival rates. The 5-year melanoma survival rate for African Americans is 59%, compared with 85% for whites. Melanoma incidence rates in Hispanics are rising and are now comparable to rates in whites.[22]


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