Sunburn, long-term sun exposure, and sun bathing are not issues to be taken lightly. Exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light, especially exposure which has caused sun burn or long term sun bathing, are contributing factors to a form of skin cancer known as malignant melonoma. Sunburns which cause blistering and radiation exposure from tanning beds increase your risk for melanoma. Sun exposure causing sunburn early in life further increases melanoma risk.
Melanoma is extremely dangerous. If not treated early, it is an aggressive form of cancer that is fatal and incurable. It will metastasize to other organs, including the brain, liver, and bone tissue. In 2009, over 8,000 people in the United States alone, died from Melanoma. (Data from the National Cancer Institute).
Treatment & Prevention
Fortunately, if caught early enough, melanoma is almost always curable. You should regularly examine your skin for suspicious looking moles. A periodic exam by a dermatologist can save your life. If a melanoma is caught early, it can be surgically excised.
If a melanoma is discovered too late, CT scans, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are forms of treatment.
What should you look for? (ABCDE)
Examine moles, pigmented areas, and skin lesions on your body and look for the following attributes:
Asymmetry, irregular Border, Color that is varied from one area to another, Diameter that is greater than the size of a pencil eraser (but they can be smaller than that), and Evolving or changing in size, shape or color.
If you have a relative such as a parent or grandparent who has had melanoma, this puts you at higher risk for the disease. Anyone can get a melonoma, but people with fair skin are at higher risk. If you have spent a lot of time in the sun or spent time sunbathing or tanning, you are at an increased risk.
How to lower your risks
By using sunscreen, wearing a hat, and avoiding excess sun exposure, you can dramatically lower your risk for melanoma. You should avoid tanning booths under all circumstances.