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Myth or Fact: People with Fair Skin Are More Likely to Get Skin Cancer

Posted Date: 8/28/2012

People with fair skin often freckle, and are more likely to burn – so does that mean they have a higher risk of skin cancer? Dr. Susan Burdette-Radoux, an oncologist and hematologist at Maimonides, delivers the verdict.

“People with fair skin are more likely to get skin cancer because they have less pigment, called melanin, in their skin,” explains Dr. Burdette-Radoux.  Melanin provides protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays – so people with darker skin (those with more pigment) have more protection. “People with light hair or eyes, who freckle and burn easily, should take extra precautions when it comes to sun protection,” notes Dr. Burdette-Radoux.  Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, frequently reapplying, and wearing a hat can be helpful in preventing UV exposure.

Verdict: TRUTH  – However, it’s important to remember that everyone is at risk for melanoma, so don’t skimp on that SPF! “Everyone should avoid extensive sun exposure, regardless of skin type,” notes Dr. Burdette-Radoux. “Try avoiding direct sunlight in the middle of the day, and limit the overall length of time spent in the sun.”


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