A summertime fad that’s gaining ground through social media is known as “sunburn art,” and it makes an Iowa doctor who treats skin cancer cases cringe.
People deliberately place stickers on their skin, go outside and get burned, then peel off the stickers and take selfies for Facebook to show off the contrasting red and white skin. Doctor Leslie Christenson, a dermatologist in Ames, calls the practice ridiculous.
“I think it’s very sad,” Dr. Christenson says. “We know that sunburns increase your risk of subsequent skin cancer. They advance aging and we can do so much to prevent skin cancer, so it’s hard for me to watch people promote it.” Damage to the skin by the sun’s harmful rays can add up. Christenson says if you get five sunburns early in life, it can raise the risk of developing skin cancer later by 80 percent.
“We know that 1 in 5 Americans will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime,” she says. “One in 65 will develop a melanoma, which is the most agressive form of skin cancer. We can prevent a lot of these skin cancers by just protecting ourselves from the sun.” Some “sunburn artists” use sunscreen in select locations to create the patterns while others may go so far as to cut out sections of their clothing. The melanoma form of skin cancer can be fatal.
Christenson isn’t recommending you stay inside, but use your head when you go out. “We do strongly recommend that you wear sun screen, not expose yourself to sunburns, but actually wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, blocking UVA and UVB rays,” Christenson says. “Wear protective clothing and a hat but that you do enjoy being outside. Just be smart about it.”