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Skin Types and Risk



Your likelihood of burning or tanning is based on your skin type and the amount of UV exposure you receive. Dermatologists classify skin type into 6 subgroups, based on how your skin reacts to UV rays. These subgroups are sometimes called "Fitzpatrick photo types," named after the physician who first classified them. People with skin types I and II are at highest risk.


Type I: Very fair skin with red or blond hair, light eyes, and freckles. Always burns; unable to tan; most sensitive to sun exposure. (Northern European or Irish ethnicity)


Type II: Usually fair skin. Burns easily, tans minimally even when trying to tan.


Type III: Light skin. Burns moderately, tans gradually and evenly to light brown. Most Caucasians are type II or type III.


Type IV: Olive skin. Burns minimally, always tans well to medium brown. Most Hispanics, Asians, and those from the Middle East are type IV or type V.


Type V: Brown skin. Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark brown. (Those with Indian and some African ethnic heritage are type V).


Type VI: Black skin. Never burns. Least sensitive to UV exposure. African heritage.

Although people of all skin types are at risk for skin damage caused by excessive sun exposure.


For a discussion of melanoma in people of color click here.


For more on sunburns click here.


  • White Americans are 20 times more likely to develop melanoma than African Americans.

  • Worldwide, White populations have the highest risk of developing melanoma, and Asian populations have the lowest risk.