Unreliability of self-reported burning tendency and tanning ability

Arch Dermatol. 1988 Jun;124(6):885-8.


Burning and tanning histories were studied in 790 white students 18 to 30 years of age by means of a self-administered questionnaire. Only 325 cases (41.1%) were classifiable according to the Fitzpatrick scheme (skin types I to IV). Skin type I (always burn, never tan) was recorded only twice (0.3%). The minimal erythemal dose was measured in a subgroup of 197 students; these results showed no significant correlation with the self-reported burning tendency. In 508 students the burning-tanning histories were compared with eye and hair color, freckling tendency, and number of moles. The tanning ability showed a better correlation with skin complexion characteristics than the burning tendency. It is concluded that self-reported burning-tanning histories form an unreliable means of skin typing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Erythema / etiology*
  • Eye Color
  • Humans
  • Medical Records / standards*
  • Skin Pigmentation / radiation effects
  • Sunburn / etiology*
  • Sunlight*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Whites