‘No tan is a safe tan.’ Experts warn of myths and misconceptions about skin cancer prevention

Dr. Allison Larson of Medstar Health says it is important to reapply sunscreen regularly.

Gillian Neff and Lauren Pena

Jun 10, 2023, 4:52 PM

Updated 409 days ago


Experts say there are many myths and misconceptions getting in the way of skin cancer prevention.
Dr. Allison Larson of Medstar Health says one major misunderstanding is the idea that people need a “base tan."
“That is absolutely a myth. No tan is a safe tan,” she said. “If you are getting bronze, tan or darker from sun exposure, you're accumulating damage with that."
According to Larson, the belief that sunburns only occur on hot days is another misconception. Experts say UV radiation is still active even during overcast.
The idea that people with darker skin tones cannot get skin cancer is also a myth.
“Anyone can get skin cancer. While we do see somewhat lower rates in people who have darker skin tones, the challenge is that often skin cancer is diagnosed later in that population,” said Larson.
Another myth is that using a moisturizer with SPF is enough to keep one safe from sun exposure.
“It's a lot better than nothing, but the challenge with moisturizer is that it goes on really thin,” said Larson. “You end up with a lot less than is used in the test to figure out how protective sunscreen is."
Larson says it is important to reapply sunscreen regularly.
“People think they can put it on in the morning and they're good to go for the whole day, but we need to reapply every two to three hours. That is just how it works with sunscreen. It wears off, you might towel it off. It is broken down by the sun's rays and needs to be put back on,” she said.
Since no one is immune to skin cancer, doctors also say it is important to keep an eye on changes in the skin including moles, freckles and any new markings.

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