True or False?
- Some types of ultraviolet (UV) rays are safe for your skin.
- Getting a base tan is a healthy way to prevent skin from sun damage.
- It’s smarter to tan indoors using a tanning bed.
- A sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 provides twice the protection as an SPF 15.
Each of the statements above is FALSE.
If you got some of the answers wrong, you’re not alone. A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology (the Academy) polled more than 7,000 adults in the United States to see how “Sun Smart” we are. The results (to be kind) show we have a lot to learn.
Myth 1: Some types of ultraviolet (UV) rays are safe for your skin.
Only about a third of the people who took the Academy poll answered this one correctly. It’s false. Both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are harmful. UVA rays penetrate deeper and can suppress your immune system, which can make you more susceptible to the development and spread of skin cancer. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn.
What You Can Do: Check your sunscreen and make sure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Myth 2: Getting a base tan is a healthy way to prevent skin from sun damage.
About half of the respondents knew this statement was false. As nice as you may think it looks, a tan is a sign of skin damage from UV radiation. The damage accumulates over time, accelerating the aging process and increasing your risk for all types of skin cancer.
What You Can Do: Use a sunless tanning lotion for that “healthy summer glow”, and protect yourself with sunscreen, protective clothing and shade while outside.
Myth 3: It is smarter to tan indoors using a tanning bed.
Most of the people polled knew this one was false — but only 63%. Dermatologist Zoe Draelos, MD, FAAD spells out the facts:
Despite claims by those in the tanning industry that UVA rays used in indoor tanning are safer because they do not cause sunburn, scientific evidence proves that this claim is untrue. UVA rays cause deeper skin damage and are linked to melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
What You Can Do: Avoid using a tanning bed. If you feel the need to have a tan, get it from a bottle (preferably a lotion with SPF 15 or higher included!).
Myth 4: A sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 provides twice the protection as an SPF 15.
Only 21% of respondents knew this statement was false. UVB protection from the sun’s burning rays does not increase proportionately with the SPF number. For example:
SPF 30 protects against about 97% of UVB rays
SPF 15 protects against about 93% of UVB rays
SPF 2 protects against about 50% of UVB rays
What You Can Do: Make sure you’re getting the most protection possible from your sunscreen. Read the bottle and use the recommended amount and remember to reapply as directed. No sunscreen can offer 100% protection from UVB rays, but using the right amount of the right SPF often enough will help beat the burn.
Interested in taking the full “Suntelligence” survey from the Academy for yourself? Visit www.melanomamonday.org to test your knowledge, download a body mole map, and learn how to perform a skin self-exam.