Answer: FictionThough many believe it's best to be slightly tanned before going on vacation, doing so will hardly save your skin, according to Sarah Stein, a professor of dermatology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "Really, we want to protect ourselves from [both] tanning and burning," she says. Although having a base tan might help prevent sunburns, the tan itself already indicates sun damage. "When we see someone who is chronically tanned, that's a marker for someone who is getting a lot of sun exposure, and that's risky for the development of future skin cancers." Sunburns, of course, signal a more intense level of damage. But don't think that maintaining a constant level of bronze is any better.