Can a tan protect against skin cancer?

January 20, 2015

Associate Professor Rosemary Nixon says: “Don’t be lured by the prospect of the ‘healthy tan’ this summer – there’s no such thing. Over exposure to the sun has been identified as the cause of around 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanoma in Australia.”

There is no such thing as a healthy tan!

Terry Slevin, education and research director at Cancer Council WA says "To get a tan, you have to get a level of UV exposure that creates a biological change in your skin. And that by nature will increase your skin cancer risk."

UV exposure is by far the greatest cause of skin cancers. The ability to tan is an adaptive response to the stress of your skin being exposed to more sunlight than it can handle. It is your skin's way of protecting itself against UV that can damage the genetic material (DNA) in skin cells, potentially triggering a skin cancer.

Even if the skin is naturally brown rather than tanned, it doesn't mean it is bulletproof in the sun: "While we do delineate levels of risk based on skin type, Melanoma and other non-melanoma skin cancers can still occur in people with darker natural skin pigmentation. No-one is immune." says Slevin.

Research shows that a tanned skin does not provide adequate protection. Experts recommend using a sunscreen of at least SPF30 to protect the skin.

The exposure to UV that causes tanning also accelerates skin aging and causes the skin to become wrinkled and less elastic. As much as 90 per cent of premature skin aging – such as sunspots, wrinkles and fine lines – is believed to be due to sun exposure.

So how do you protect your skin?

Apply and re-apply sunscreen regularly, wear SOLBARI sun protective clothing that covers large areas of the skin, wear a broad brim hat and sunglasses and seek shade when possible.

Thanks for reading,
The SOLBARI Team


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