Background and aim: Skin phototyping is a clinical classification system based on a patient's historical reporting of the acute skin response to sunlight. We carried out a simple study to estimate the skin phototypes of the Maltese people in order to acquire more information on the relative risk of the general Maltese population to sun burning and to the more chronic effects of sun exposure, including photoaging and skin cancers.
Method: A consultant dermatologist and dermatology trainees determined the skin phototype of patients seen with skin infections or skin tags at dermatology outpatients in Malta by carrying out a short interview.
Results: Data were collected on 756 patients. The commonest reported skin phototype in both sexes was type III (48.0% overall; 52.4% in males, 43.8% in females); this was followed by type IV in males (30.4%) and type II in females (32.3%). Only 1.2% of the total was of skin type I.
Conclusion: Approximately one half of the Maltese population is at moderate risk of sun damage; about one quarter is at low risk; and the other quarter is at high risk, the latter group needing more thorough sun avoidance and better surveillance for skin tumours. Social desirability can influence responses to such questionnaires and might have contributed to the difference between males and females noted in our study.