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Skin Care and Diseases

Sun poisoning/ skin cancer

04/11/2007

Question:

My husband appears to have sun poisoning but the burn occured on a Thursday, the rash didn`t show up until Saturday afternoon with extreme itching. Is that normal? He is on steriods now as we went to the doctor but the place was packed and didn`t get a chance to ask too many questions. Is he more likely to suffer from skin cancer now that he has suffered from sun poisoning?

Answer:

While it is unusual for there to be such a long delay in rash development in true sun poisoning, it is a possibility. It sounds like your husband may have developed Polymorphous Light Eruption, which looks like a skin rash. It occurs in susceptible individuals when they are exposed to sunlight that is more intense than usual, for example as in the first time you go out in the sun during the summer or when you expose a body part to sunlight that has no prior sunlight exposure. Normally the resulting skin-rash reaction heals within 7-10 days with no treatment as long as additional sun exposure is avoided.

Sun poisoning in and of itself has not necessarily been linked to increased skin cancer development, but the sunburn that usually accompanies it has. While there is nothing you can do about the damage to the skin that has already occurred, in the future using sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays is mandatory. (Sunlight is made up of UVA and UVB rays). Make sure the sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA since these protective agents are more effective in preventing these breakouts and are an important component in the prevention of skin cancer. The key is using enough sunscreen. That means applying a shot glass full of sunscreen every time you apply it and reapplying it every couple of hours (even the waterproof kind).

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Response by:

Tatiana M Oberyszyn, PhD Tatiana M Oberyszyn, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology
Associate Professor of Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University