"Colorado is a high UV exposure state, but people don't realize it."

It's no secret that Coloradans love the outdoors, and with everything being closed for the last few months, people have been trying to get outside as often as possible. Although it's great news that people are spending more time outside and less time inside with their faces glued to a screen, there has been an increase in the number of sunburns doctors are reportedly seeing here in Colorado.

"People are spending more time outdoors, gardening, walking, biking, hiking, running. And we've seen more sunburns, especially now that it's springtime," said Dr. Gregory Papadeas.

And with 300 days of sunshine, getting a sunburn in Colorado is no joke, so it pays off to be prepared. While sunscreen is an easy thing to forget, one does not often forget a severe sunburn.

Sunburn is damage to the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The excess sun exposure causes an inflammatory reaction and damage to the outer layers of the skin, accelerating the skin’s aging. It's the leading cause of most skin cancers, including the very deadly melanoma. Even without a visible burn, prolonged sun exposure will cause damage to the skin. Repeated sunburns raise the risk of developing skin cancer later on down the road. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, just one severe sunburn as a child more than doubles one’s chance of developing skin cancer, and five or more "blistering burns" more than doubles the risk of deadly melanoma.

Dr. Neil Box, Ph.D., professor and oncology specialists from the University of Colorado School of Medicine Anschutz, said:

“Colorado is a high UV exposure state, but people don’t realize it.” He goes on to say, “While melanoma is created by severe, blistering burns, other forms of skin cancer depend on gentler UV accumulation over time. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are like pouring water into a pitcher until it eventually overflows. Even as an adult, you can make the decision to protect yourself from the sun – to stop pouring UV radiation into that pitcher.”

Dr. Box advises that it's never too early or too late to start protecting yourself and others from the sun and points out that parents and those who care for children have a special responsibility. “One takeaway is that if you’re a parent or camp counselor, it really is important to prevent children in your care from getting burned – five times or even once. You literally have the power to save lives,” Box said.

 

Risk Factors of Sunburns (taken directly from The Skin Cancer Foundation's website):

  • Repeated sunburns raise your risk. For fair-skinned people, especially those with genetic predisposition, sunburn plays a clear role in developing melanoma. Research shows that the UV rays that damage skin can also alter a tumor-suppressing gene, giving injured cells less chance to repair before progressing to cancer.
  • People who work or play sports outdoors have a greater risk of frequent sunburns that can result in skin cancer.
  • Even one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles your chances of developing melanoma later in life.
  • Skin damage builds up over time starting with your very first sunburn. The more you burn, the greater your risk of skin cancer. Subsequent UV damage can occur even when there is no obvious burn.
  • Five or more sunburns more than doubles your risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma
  • It’s easy to reduce your risk of skin cancer by practicing sun safety.

As people who thrive on being outdoors, Coloradans need to take note of the sun and how it can affect them. If you're worried about a spot on your skin, contact your doctor.