Sunburn (Sun Poisoning)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View the Adult Skin Problems Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideSun-Damaged Skin: Pictures of Sun Spots, Wrinkles, Sunburns

Sun-Damaged Skin: Pictures of Sun Spots, Wrinkles, Sunburns

What kinds of skin cancer can UV rays cause?

Overexposure to UV rays can cause three varieties of skin cancer; malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

Malignant melanoma

  • Malignant melanoma is by far the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
  • The current lifetime risk of developing a melanoma is approximately 2%.
  • Melanomas may begin from changes in a pre-existing mole or birthmark, or arise as a new mole from otherwise clear skin (de novo).
  • Multiple features are more common in melanomas versus regular moles including asymmetry, irregular borders, multiple colors, and size larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Melanomas may be black or brown - and sometimes red, white, or blue, or a mixture of those colors.
  • Melanoma can spread (metastasize) rapidly. If diagnosed early, melanoma is often curable. If the diagnosis is delayed, melanoma can spread and may be potentially fatal.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas

Basal and squamous cell cancers are slow-growing and are far less likely to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body) than melanoma. Both basal and squamous cell cancers can be cured in most cases if diagnosed early.

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Basal cell carcinomas are flattened, pearly, small bumps with translucent edges and slightly depressed centers.
  • They may bleed.
  • Usually, they appear on the head, neck, upper trunk, and hands.
  • If ignored, these cancers can cause considerable localized damage.

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Squamous cell carcinomas are rough patches or crusty scaly areas on the skin that do not clear up and do not respond to the usual skin creams.
  • They may bleed a little.
  • They tend to appear particularly on the ear rims, face, lower lip, and hands.
  • If ignored, they can spread to other parts of the body.

These conditions are very common and if diagnosed properly and promptly, they are highly curable. It is very important to have routine skin checks by a skin doctor (dermatologist) annually. Annual screening can help in early diagnosis of skin cancer or pre-cancerous conditions that may lead to skin cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/17/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Skin Care & Conditions Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

  • Sunburn - Experience

    Have you ever experienced a really bad sunburn? What was it like?

    Post View 4 Comments
  • Sunburn - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you have with a sunburn?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Sunburn - Treatment

    What treatments helped relieve the pain, itching, peeling, etc. for sunburn?

  • Sunburn - Home Remedies

    What home remedies have you found helpful in treating the symptoms of a sunburn?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Sunburn (Sun Poisoning) - Applying Sunscreen

    What tips do you use for applying sunscreen, for example, the time of day, how many applications, how to remind yourself to reapply sunscreen, etc.


Health Solutions From Our Sponsors