The Truth About the “Base Tan”

Sun Safety Tips for Memorial Day Weekend and Beyond 

New York, NY (May 23, 2012) – Those tempted to kick off summer by getting a “base tan” should be aware that there is no such thing as a safe, healthy or protective tan. The misconception that a base tan will protect the skin is dangerous; even for those who never burn, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can lead to skin aging (including wrinkles, lines and age spots) as well as skin cancer. In fact, about 65 percent of melanomas and 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with sun exposure. 

“Whether obtained by lying out in the sun or using a tanning bed, a tan damages your skin,” says Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “A tan is the body's response to damaged DNA in the skin cells — the skin darkens in order to prevent more damage but the person's risk of skin cancer is already increased.” 

Since sunburns are also associated with higher risks of skin cancer, especially melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer), it’s important to avoid both tans and sunburns. This summer and all year long, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the following skin cancer prevention strategies: 

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Do not burn.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See your doctor every year for a professional skin exam. 

About The Skin Cancer Foundation

The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. For more information, visit