As summer approaches, more people will be outside enjoying the beach, a cookout or dip in the pool. It's prime time for getting a sunburn however. The benefit of sunscreen is well known in preventing sunburn, and later on, skin cancer. Cases of skin cancer have occurred years after sun exposure, leading people to wonder what the connection is between a sunburn that might have happened in childhood and a disease that presents itself years later. The answer? Damage to DNA.
While a sunburn might look and feel like a burn received from touching a hot pan, it's not really the same. Sunshine contains ultra violet rays, or UV rays. This form of light reaches the skin and burns it, but in the process the DNA contained in the skin cells is actually damaged. When a burn comes from a hot object, skin is burned and painful, but no damage to DNA occurs. The skin can repair itself, as it does for cuts and scrapes, but DNA damage is not easily repaired. Cells that have mutated as a result of sun exposure, will continue to multiply, and those mutations become even more problematic, some even turning into cancer. So load up on the sunscreen this summer stay safe. Also, be careful around the campfire too!