Sunburn Art Poses Serious Cancer Risk, Health Experts Warn

With a growing number of teens and young adults engaging in “Sunburn Art,” where certain parts of the body are allowed to become burned by the sun to create a pattern, shape or design, the Skin Cancer Foundation has released a statement to strongly discourage the practice, warning about the potential risk of skin cancer from sunburns. 

The Skin Cancer Foundation released the sunburn advisory on July 2, following the recognition of a new trend growing among young people who are exposing certain parts of their body to the sun without using proper sun protection to achieve a sun burn in the shape of a pattern or design. The organization is advising those individuals that unprotected exposure from the sun can have consequences including increased melanoma risks.

The organization stated that individuals should never welcome sunburns due to the potential dangers they pose. In addition to being painful, sunburns cause DNA damage to the skin, accelerate skin aging, and increase the lifetime skin cancer risk.

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According to Deborah Sarnoff, the Vice President of the Skin Cancer Foundations, those who sustain five or more sunburns during their youth may have an 80% increased risk of melanoma over their lifetime. Sarnoff also indicates that a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.

The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization comprised of licensed doctors that are solely devoted to the prevention early, detection, and treatment of skin cancer. The foundation aims to educate the public on how to prevent and identify possible skin cancer signs through public and professional education and research.

According to the foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually.

The CDC states that more than 9,000 people die each year in the U.S. from melanoma and that the rate of diagnosis has doubled from 1982 to 2011. UV exposure causes more than 90% of melanoma cases and the CDC projects that a diagnosis of melanoma on average decreases an individual’s life expectancy by 20 years.

Individuals can prevent sunburns by taking simple precautionary steps, such as using sunscreens and wearing protective clothing. Health officials recommend purchasing UV protection sunglasses and avoid being in the sun from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when the sun is most likely to produce harmful burns.

The practice of sunburn art has also emerged amid increased awareness about the risk of skin cancer from indoor tanning beds, which are the cause of an estimated 6,200 new melanoma diagnoses each year.

In May 2014, the FDA reclassified indoor tanning equipment as class II medical devices and added a black box warning, indicating they should not be used by minors. It also warns of health risks associated with tanning, including the risk of cancer.

Although a recent study has shown a decline in the use of indoor tanning facilities by teenagers in the U.S., medical doctors issued concerns in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) highlighting the risks posed by indoor tanning and calling for a broader public health approach to the use and regulate of the devices among teens.

Some health experts are calling for the FDA to impose a national minimum age requirement on indoor tanning devices. They said the devices should be regulated, much like tobacco products are, because they are both public health risks which may lead to death.

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