Bodily Defenses Image Map

Sunburn (continued)
What happens when you have prolonged exposure to the sun?
Unfortunately, skin cancer can develop from being in the sun too much.  When you burn, you are causing damage and death to cells.  This injury can cause damage to your DNA, which is very serious!  This DNA damage sometimes can cause painless patches or lumps to form.  These skin formations are cancer.  The most common form of skin cancer is the most dangerous, melanoma.  The word melanoma means that melanin in the body has become cancerous. If skin cancer is caught early, you have a good chance of survival and complete recovery.  The common treatment for skin cancer in the early stages is removal of the cancerous area. However, in further stages, chemotherapy and radiation may be used. The use of radiation may seem weird because that is what caused the cancer in the first place, right?  Well, the radiation received at the doctor's office is actually a very strong dose, so that it kills or disables the cancerous cells. To prevent all of this, you must reduce the amount of sun that is absorbed by your tissues.

How can sunscreen prevent a sunburn?
Sunscreen can not only prevent a sunburn, it can greatly reduce your chances of getting skin cancer from the sun. When you look at a bottle of sunscreen, you will see a number, called the SPF, or sun protection factor.  This number, which varies according to the strength of the sunscreen you need, is actually a number you can use to find out how many minutes you can stay in the sun without being burned.  If you are normally okay in the sun for 10 minutes and you use a lotion with a SPF of 10, then you would be okay in the sun for 100 minutes! 

Why do some races of people burn more easily than others?

Certain races have a higher concentration of melanin in their skin than others.  For example, a light-skinned Caucasian may have only 1-3% melanin in their skin, whereas a darker-skinned African may have as much as 43%.  That is a big difference! 


The sun is a powerful enemy of the body's first line of defense, the skin.  Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause a painful sunburn or even skin cancer!  So before you head outside next time, make sure that you apply sunscreen that is strong enough to protect you!  For further information, take a look at these websites:

To look up a current UV report on a map of the United States:

What are some other dangers to your bodily defenses?


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