Skin Types and Sun Exposure

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Date: May 2008

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Dr. Susan Chon, assistant professor of dermatology at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, speaks about the different skin types during a lecture on skin cancer prevention.

Skin types. When we see a patient, we kind of look at your skin and say, well how much risk is this patient really at? And we kind of grade it in six groups. Type 1 through 6.

And type 1 is someone who always burns. They step outside the door, they start burning. That's someone who maybe like -redhead, freckles, Celtic background, Irish background.

Type 6 is someone who's extremely, you know, much more dark pigmented. They rarely burn, they're always kind of, you know, kind of tan. They don't really have any damage from -- or not a lot of damage. And everything else is in between.

And we always tell patients, you know it's not by your race because in the same Asian group, you can have someone who's almost type 1, all the way to type 5 or type 6 even. It's not so much your race. It's really how your skin behaves.

And as I mentioned, when I see someone who's type 1 through 3, so mostly it's Caucasians and basically everyone who else's fair regardless of their ethnicity. They're more high risk, so I treat those patients a little differently. They might come in more frequently for skin checks and I might be telling them to be more aggressive about their photoprotection.

And type 4 through 6 because they're tan they actually have more of this melanin that's in their cells that protects their DNA. So you actually have a little bit of some inherent protection.

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