The Truth About Getting a Tan and Skin Cancer
There are a lot of misconceptions about sun-tanning. For Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Charlotte dermatologists debunk these myths and tell us how to get a gorgeous, safe tan.
The warm sun might feel good on the skin, but don't forget how deadly it can be. This May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month, take a quick moment to brush up on your melanoma knowledge. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Did you know current estimates state that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime?
Sona Dermatology & MedSpa is a name Charlotte-area residents have trusted for exceptional skin care for nearly 20 years. With the recent addition of medical dermatology to its services, Sona now provides high-quality, comprehensive skin care for the whole family at its centers in the Ballantyne and Huntersville-Lake Norman areas.
The physicians at the two Charlotte-area centers—Dr. Ronea Chambers (Ballantyne) and Dr. Michael Redmond (Huntersville-Lake Norman)—are board-certified dermatologists and clinical experts who provide a wide array of treatments, including annual skin checks to detect skin cancer.
As we splash into summer days spent in the sunshine, Dr. Chambers and Dr. Redmond spoke with Charlotte magazine in April 2019 to clarify the facts and falsehoods surrounding sun exposure and your skin. Below, they debunk common myths surrounding skin cancer. Plus, Dr. Chambers shares her best tips for getting a gorgeous, golden tan that won't hurt you.
Myth: Base tans prevent sunburn
Have you been operating under the belief that getting a "base tan" will shield you from a painful sunburn? Think again, the dermatologists say: "There is no such thing as a healthy or safe tan."
Myth: You can't get sunburnt in the cold
Not only is a "base tan" just as dangerous as sunburn, but you can also get a sunburn even when the sun's not visible. Drs. Chambers and Redmond say another misconception is that people think "sunburns don’t occur when the weather is cloudy and overcast or cold."
The dermatologists say both of these sun exposure myths are simply untrue—you can burn in overcast or cold weather, and a "base tan" will not protect you from burning.
Fact: Everyone is at risk of skin cancer; certain people are at higher risk
Every day, almost 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer. Though everyone is at risk, some people are at higher risk.
Generally speaking, the two Sona dermatologists say, "Anyone who spends significant time outdoors unprotected—regardless of skin color—are more susceptible to skin cancer." Examples include lifeguards, landscapers, roofers, postal workers, or athletic instructors. "Otherwise," they say, "because people with lighter skin tones have less pigment to absorb and protect against the free radical damage that UV light causes, those with light skin and light eye color and the absence of pigmentation, such as vitiligo or albinism, are especially prone."
Drs. Chambers and Redmond say the same goes for people who are immunosuppressed due to medications, organ transplants, or other conditions, because of the role the immune system plays in the surveillance and destruction of abnormal cells.
Fact: You can get tan without the sun
If you love the look of a tan but don't want skin cancer, luckily, you have options. Dr. Chambers says to "incorporate the use of sunless tanners, which stimulate the skin's natural darkening mechanisms." Additionally, she says, "Increase your intake of antioxidants that contain beta-carotene, which will help provide protection from free radicals that UV light causes. Dr. Chambers says beta-carotene can simultaneously "impart a bronzed appearance to lighter skin tones."
Foods rich in beta-carotene include:
- Red cayenne peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
- Butternut squash
The Next Move
The good news is, skin cancer, including melanoma, is highly treatable when it's detected early. That's why it's so important to establish a relationship with a local dermatologist such as Dr. Chambers or Dr. Redmond—so you can catch skin cancer as soon as possible and increase your chances of full recovery.
Healthy adults without a history of skin cancer should visit their dermatologist annually for skin cancer screening, but if you've had a previous skin cancer diagnosis, or if you're in one of the above-mentioned high-risk groups, the dermatologists say you should get checked more frequently—quarterly to twice-yearly.
No matter if you're down in Ballantyne or up by Lake Norman, Sona has your skin covered. See contact information below for both Sona locations, and set up a skin cancer screening with your local dermatologist today.
Dr. Ronea Chambers
7825 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, Suite 300, Charlotte, NC, 28277
Dr. Michael Redmond
14330 Oakhill Park Lane, Suite 135, Huntersville, NC 28078