Sunburn: An Irreversible but Preventable Damage

Whether as a child or an adult, most of us have felt the regret of a sunburn at some point in our lives. While sunburns are unsightly and certainly uncomfortable, they can also cause lasting consequences. Sunburns hurt us in more ways than one!

Sunburn not only accelerates the effects of aging within the skin (wrinkles and fine lines), but harmful UV rays are also a leading contributor to most skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. In fact, just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence can more than double your risk of developing melanoma later in life. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Sunburn is bad news for your comfort, complexion and health. However, sunburn is completely preventable!

How Does a Sunburn Develop?

Not all skin types and complexions respond to the sun the same way. However, all sunburns are considered an inflammatory reaction to ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage to the skin’s outermost layers. Melanin is a naturally occurring substance in your skin that helps to defend it against UV rays. Some people produce more melanin than others, which causes some to get more tan than burned with the same amount of sun exposure. When the skin gets burned, it is an indication that the melanin was unable to properly protect the skin cells, and the skin becomes red, swollen and painful. Peeling after a sunburn is your skin’s way of trying to eliminate the damaged skin cells.

Skin damage builds up over time, beginning with that first sunburn that likely occurred when you were a child. The more you burn, the greater your risk of skin cancer. However, you should know that skin cancer risk is still increased with any type of sun exposure, regardless of whether you burned or tanned. Subsequent UV damage can occur even when there is no obvious burn.

What You Can Do

It is hard to avoid the sun completely – and you don’t have to. If you want to lessen your risk for skin cancer, however, it is necessary to protect your skin from the sun. While it is safest to stay in the shade, wear a hat or long sleeves, we know this isn’t always feasible. Therefore, one of the best ways to protect your skin is by wearing daily sunscreen. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is marked as SPF 30 or higher. According to SkinCancer.Org, regular daily use sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by about 40 percent, and lower your melanoma risk by 50 percent.” As an added bonus, regular use of sunscreen can help prevent wrinkles, sagging, age spots and other unwanted signs of skin aging.

For more tips on how to enjoy the outdoor sun while also protecting your family’s skin, please contact Olansky Dermatology.

Posted on behalf of Olansky Dermatology Associates