Sun Poisoning

Dangers of Sun Poisoning

Obviously, sun poisoning is no fun. You'll likely be in severe pain for a few days after the sun exposure. You may begin to lose skin 4-7 days later as well [source: WebMD]. But these are only the short-term dangers.

As we already mentioned, sun poisoning can occasionally be fatal. The sun's harmful UV radiation can also cause eye damage, even though it may not be as noticeable as a stinging sunburn. UV exposure to the eyes can increase someone's chances of developing cataracts.

We mentioned on the first page that UV light can damage DNA. This may cause the DNA to mutate, which could lead to skin cancer [source: Sobell]. Melanoma is a very serious and deadly kind of skin cancer that has been linked to repeated UV damage earlier in life.

But UV exposure can also cause other forms of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, both of which are curable if caught early. Lesions caused by sun damage, called actinic keratoses, can eventually lead to squamous cell carcinomas. Luckily dermatologists can treat them in several ways, including laser treatments or freezing them through cryotherapy.

Your chances of developing skin cancer increase after repeated UV exposure, but it could only take one bad sunburn to cause cancer [source: Kidd]. Knowing this, you shouldn't let yourself go one more day in the sun without taking some important precautions.

Doctors recommend avoiding extended periods of sun exposure. But if you must be outside, the most important thing to do is use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before you go out -- don't wait until you're already outside. And one of the most common mistakes is to forget to reapply periodically. It's also smart to make a fashion statement and wear a brimmed hat that completely shades your face.

So remember that when you're soaking up the sun, you're also soaking up dangerous UV rays. And even though you may not feel it at the moment, it could cause severe pain in the short term and, what's worse, a deadly disease in the long term.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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  • Encyclopædia Britannica. "Sunburn." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 2010. (April 15, 2010)
  • EPA. "Health effects of UV overexposure." Environmental Protection Agency. Last updated Dec. 3, 2009. (April 15, 2010)
  • Kidd,Christie. "Here Comes The Sun Damage: How You Can Ensure It's All Right." April 8, 2010. (April 15, 2010)
  • LiveScience. "You and the Sun: 10 Burning Questions." (April 15, 2010)
  • Nabili, Siamak MD, MPH. "Sunburn and Sun Poisoning." MedicineNet. (April 15, 2010)
  • Naylor, Mark F., MD., and Kevin C. Farmer. "Sun Damage and Prevention." Telemedicine. (April 15, 2010)
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