[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
September 1989

To Tan or Not to Tan: A Burning Question

Author Affiliations

Department of Dermatology The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Baltimore, MD 21205

Arch Dermatol. 1989;125(9):1258-1260. doi:10.1001/archderm.1989.01670210096017

Conclusion No. 4 of the American Academy of Dermatology Consensus Conference on Photoaging and Photodamage in 1988 was: "There is no safe way to tan."

The article by Levine et al1 on "The Effects of Bergapten and Sunlight on Cutaneous Pigmentation" in this issue of the Archives suggests that this conclusion is incorrect and that a tan may be healthy after all. The article is not earth shattering in its content, but it raises very important philosophical and scientific questions for the dermatologic community. Therefore, we should critically evaluate the evidence these authors present before we adopt a fundamental shift in this direction. The shift is fundamental because this article suggests that we condone, or even recommend, putting a carcinogen in a sunscreen.

FIRST: THE PHILOSOPHY  The dermatologic community is in the midst of its most successful public relations exercise with its campaign to educate fair-skinned people about the adverse