Myths and Facts about Sunburn

Many people enjoy the bronze and sun-kissed look, but too often, a golden tan begins with a sunburn. Skin is hard to replace, therefore it is important to protect it. Confusion exists with regards to protecting oneself from harmful rays.

Myth: Sunburn Is Caused Only by the Sun

Fact: Sunburn is caused by UV (ultraviolet) radiation "wave lengths shorter than light, but longer than x-rays." These UV lights can come from the sun or from other means, such as tanning bed lamps and sterilization methods with the use of ultraviolet light called “ultraviolet germicidal irradiation” (UVGI).

Myth: Sunscreen Prevents All Cancers

Fact: Sunscreens help to prevent skin cancers such as basal (most common type of slow-growing cancer affecting the top layers of the skin) and squamous (early type of cancer that can occur in different types of organs such as the skin, lips and mouth) cell carcinomas. Medical studies show that when sunscreen is absorbed into the skin, it creates additional free radicals in the body, increasing the risk for malignant melanoma (deadliest type of skin cancer) that causes 75 percent of skin-cancer related deaths. This is rare, however, and medical reports indicate that the use of sunscreens and its benefits far outweigh the risks.

Myth: Sunburn Symptoms Are Redness and Burning

Fact: Sunburn symptoms can include redness, burning, nausea and/or vomiting, itching, peeling of the skin, blistering, dehydration and electrolyte loss, pain, fever and chills, or even shock and death from sun poisoning.

Myth: Sunburn Affects Only the Skin

Fact: Sunburn affects the skin and the eyes. Sunglasses or protective glasses with UV light protection should be worn to protect eyes, as eyes are very sensitive to these lights and can become damaged. A survey from the American Optometric Association (AOA) showed that 35 percent of people are unaware of the dangers of a sunburn to the eyes, and do not look for the UV protection when purchasing eye glasses or sunglasses.

Individuals often think that the stinging and burning of the eyes is from too much chlorine or sea water, but frequently it is the result of too much sun exposure and sunburned eyes. When this occurs, vision may become impaired and cataracts can occur later on, as could cancer of the eyes.

Myth: Sunburn Affects Only People with Fair Skin

Fact: Everyone can be affected by the harmful UV rays, whether the skin is darker pigmentation or fair. The risks are lower for darker pigmented skin, but cancer can affect everyone, no matter what type or color of skin.

Myth: Self-Tanning Lotions Protect from Sunburn

Fact: Not all self-tanners contain protective ingredients from the sun. Most of these products contain dehydroxyacetone (DHA), which is similar to a sugar that reacts on the skin causing a brownish coloring. The DHA, along with the amino acids of the skin, creates this chemical reaction.

DHA does not protect the skin from sun damage. It is important to assure that self-tanning lotions that are used contain protective ingredients to prevent sunburn and skin cancer, and that the lotion blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

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