Doctors Warn To Avoid Social Trend of “Sunburn Art”

By: Jennifer C. Yates

A hashtag getting attention on social media is also a growing cause for concern among doctors. Using the phrase #SunburnArt, people are posting online photos of their sunburned skin with designs of flowers, logos or other artwork appearing on areas that had been covered from the sun.

The result is a kind of temporary tattoo that doctors warn could lead to permanent damage.

“A lot of people believe sunburn is something that disappears in a few days and is gone. But we know that the more you expose unprotected skin to the sun, the more you are risking developing skin cancer in the future,” said Laura Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., director of UPMC’s Pigmented Lesions Clinic. ThinkstockPhotos-179213805

There are an estimated 2.8 million cases of basal cell carcinoma of the skin and 120,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and the incidence of melanoma is increasing nationally. One major, and preventable, cause of skin cancer is excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources, such as sunlamps and tanning beds.

John Kirkwood, M.D., director of the Melanoma Center at UPMC CancerCenter, said there are many factors that can increase your risk of developing skin cancers. They include having many large or unusual moles, a weakened immune system, frequent use of tanning beds and a history of sunburn, particularly as a child or teenager.

“Melanoma is a curable disease, if it’s detected early. That’s why sun protection and awareness of changes in your skin are so important,” Dr. Kirkwood said.

Protect yourself from the sun by following these guidelines:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and after excessive sweating and swimming.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt, or pants during periods of sun exposure and seek shade whenever possible.
  • Avoid sun exposure during “peak” sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • If you see a mole on your skin that is new, changing, growing, or otherwise concerning, see your physician.