I had a lot of times in my life when I got seriously sunburned (my skin got extremely red). Though, after the sunburns pass, I become a lot darker and tanned and then I do not get burned any more, until the next summer when my skin turns pale again.

I learned that each time one gets such sunburns, it dramatically increases the chances of skin cancer.

Is this damage permanent and cumulative, or can it be treated, or will the body heal it with time?

  • 2
    Welcome to MedSci. We have a strict policy here that medical advice questions are off topic, and your question as originally written crossed the line. But it's a valid question, so I edited your post to remove the personal aspects.
    – Carey Gregory
    May 2, 2021 at 20:43
  • @Gregory Thanks!
    – FreeZe
    May 2, 2021 at 20:55

1 Answer 1


The Skin Cancer Foundation covers this:

[A]fter the sunburn fades, lasting damage remains.

Sunburn accelerates skin aging and is a leading cause in the majority of cases of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The later went on to say:

  • 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

Cancer Research UK says similar.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out:

Any change in skin color after UV exposure (whether it is a tan or a burn) is a sign of injury, not health. Over time, too much exposure to UV rays can cause skin cancers including melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. UV exposure can also cause cataracts and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma). Every time you tan, you increase your risk of getting skin cancer.

More can be read in Chapter 3 of the CDC Traveller's Health Yellow Book 2020 (Free access via the CDC) which lists the following references:


American Cancer Society (n.d.). Skin cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer.html

Diaz, J. H., & Nesbitt Jr, L. T. (2013). Sun exposure behavior and protection: recommendations for travelers. Journal of travel medicine, 20(2), 108-118. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1708-8305.2012.00667.x

Monteiro, A. F., Rato, M., & Martins, C. (2016). Drug-induced photosensitivity: Photoallergic and phototoxic reactions. Clinics in dermatology, 34(5), 571-581. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2016.05.006

Skin Cancer Foundations (n.d.). Sun protection. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/

Young, A. R., Claveau, J., & Rossi, A. B. (2017). Ultraviolet radiation and the skin: Photobiology and sunscreen photoprotection. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 76(3), S100-S109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2016.09.038

  • What should I do if I have history of many sun burns ? It made me really worried
    – FreeZe
    May 3, 2021 at 12:00
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    @FreeZe - You cannot do anything about the damage you have already done, but you can try and prevent more damage by following the guidance provided in the references. Particularly skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection and being even more careful if taking medications which can increase photosensitivity. May 3, 2021 at 12:09

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