Sunburn results from too much sun or sun-equivalent exposure. Almost everyone has been sunburned or will become sunburned at some time. Anyone who visits a beach, goes fishing, works in the yard, or simply is out in the sun can get sunburned. Improper tanning bed use is also a source of sunburn. Although seldom fatal, severe sunburn or sun poisoning can be disabling and cause quite a bit of discomfort.
One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Morever, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.
Sunburn is literally a burn on the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This burn causes inflammation of the skin. Injury from sunburn can begin within 30 minutes of exposure.
- UVA and UVB refer to different wavelengths in the light spectrum. UVB is more damaging to the skin, especially for risk of skin cancer. Both UVA and UVB are responsible for photoaging (premature aging of the skin and wrinkles) and sunburn. Tanning beds produce both UVA and UVB rays.
- Individuals who travel to the southern United States, regions close to the equator, and places at high altitudes carry a higher risk for sunburn.
- Light-skinned and fair-haired people are at greater risk of sunburn.
- Prior recent sun exposure and prior skin injury are risks for sunburn, even in limited exposure to the sun. Normal limited exposure to UV radiation produces beneficial vitamin D in the skin.