Early Heat: Why Sunburns in Youth Could Raise Skin Cancer Risk Later

sunburnCould skin cancer risk be determined as early as childhood?

A new study found that experiencing at least five blistering sunburns as a teenager is linked with a greater risk of skin cancer later in life- with the skin cancer type even including potentially-fatal melanoma.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, and found that people who had five or more blistering sunburns between the ages 15 and 20 had a 68 percent higher risk of two different types of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) and an 80 percent greater melanoma risk.

Melanoma is believed to be the most dangerous type of skin cancer, being responsible for approximately 8,790 deaths each year, the Skin Cancer Foundation indicates. Though it can be cured if caught early, it becomes more difficultr to treat after it has progressed and moved throughout the body.

Researchers also witnessed a connection between ultraviolet radiation exposure and skin cancer. When study participants were exposed to UV radiation throughout adulthood, they had a 2.35-fold greater chance of skin basal cell carcinoma- as well as a 2.53-fold higher risk of skin squamous cell carcinoma.

“This study adds to a growing body of research indicating that UV radiation exposure early in life through both natural (e.g., sunlight) and artificial (e.g., tanning beds) sources significantly increases the risk of skin cancer,” offered Darren Mays, Ph.D., MPH, an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center who was unrelated to the study.

Though the study shows the increased skin cancer risk linked with five or more blistering sunburns in youth, the National Cancer Institute offers a slightly more dangerous perspective, believing that having even one blistering sunburn can increase skin cancer risk later in life.


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