Is getting sunburned really a big deal?

“Sunburn, even one bad sunburn, can significantly increase your risk of melanoma,” says Xiang (Eric) Dong, MD, the Associate Director of Surgical Oncology at Westchester Medical Center and MidHudson Regional Hospital, both members of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). Dr. Dong adds that when it comes to kids and burns, the risk is even more pronounced, due to the delay in melanoma development. “Getting a painful sunburn, even just once every two to three years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer,” he says. Regarding the prevalence of skin cancer, Dr. Dong explains: “Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.” But there is some good news. According to Dr. Dong, skin cancers are mostly preventable conditions. Here are some simple precautionary measures you can take:

  • Stay out of the sun, especially during midday, as the best defense.
  • If you can’t avoid the sun, clothing and hats are the best alternatives to avoiding sun damage/sunburn.
  • Use plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater, and avoid staying in the sun for prolonged periods of time.
  • Always choose broad-spectrum sunscreens, termed multi-spectrum, broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection.