How Belief in “Healthy Tans” Puts Young Adults at Risk for Skin Cancer

A recent national survey by the Orlando Health Cancer Institute reveals that nearly a third of Americans believe that a tan makes people look better and healthier. However, experts warn that this dangerous beauty standard can lead to risky sun exposure behavior and increase the risk of skin cancer.

No Such Thing as a “Healthy Tan”

“There is no such thing as a healthy tan, as it’s really just a visual manifestation of damage to the skin,” said Dr. Rajesh Nair, an oncology surgeon at the Orlando Health Cancer Institute. “But we’re fighting against a perceived positive image and health benefits of something that actually has a totally opposite reality, which is that suntanned skin represents an increased risk of a deadly disease.”

The survey also found that young adults are particularly susceptible to believing myths and misinformation about sun protection. About 14% of adults under 35 think daily sunscreen use is more harmful than direct sun exposure, and nearly a quarter believe that staying hydrated prevents sunburn.

Navigating the Overwhelming Amount of Health Information

Dr. Nair emphasizes that there is no scientific data supporting the idea that drinking water provides sun protection. He also notes that the protective benefits of sunscreens far outweigh any known risks. For those concerned about chemicals in sunscreens, mineral options like zinc oxide offer a safe, physical barrier to the sun.

With so many sources of information and misinformation available, it can be challenging to decipher good advice from bad. “Our fear is that people buy into a lot of really dangerous ideas that put them at added risk,” Dr. Nair said.

Brianna Starr, 29, has witnessed the rapid spread of trends on social media and how easily people can be influenced by friends and peers. After her sister was diagnosed with melanoma at 19, Starr became serious about protecting herself and now sees a dermatologist regularly.

Experts recommend using sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapplying every two hours, especially when sweating or in the water. Regular skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist or primary care physician are also crucial for early detection.

“Unfortunately we’re seeing skin cancer more and more in patients of a young age. And because it’s something that’s often not on their radar, it tends to be diagnosed in more advanced stages,” Dr. Nair said. “We don’t want to discourage people from being outside and being active because there are so many health benefits to that, but it’s also important to know that sun protection can be lifesaving, and the only effective way of protecting yourself is limiting the effects of UV radiation on the skin.”

Keyword/Phrase: Skin Cancer Misconceptions

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.