Experts warn 'sunburn art' could cause cancer

By Stephen Feller

NEW YORK, July 9 (UPI) -- Sunburn art -- creating shapes and designs on the skin using sunscreen and getting a burn, leaving the design visible in the burn -- has been around since the invention of sunscreen, and as #SunburnArt heats up on social media this summer, experts are warning the practice can increase a person's chances for cancer.

The designs shared on social media have ranged from flowers and faces to the Batman logo, and discussion of the practice has grown as the hashtag #SunburnArt is included on posts both for and against it.


"This is where popular culture is clashing with medical advice," Dr. Barney Kenet, a New York-based dermatologist, told ABC News. "It's really obvious that sunburn does two things to you: it gives you lines and freckles and wrinkles and it also causes skin cancer especially melanoma."

Kenet said the practice is made worse by the sunburn artists' intention of getting a deeper burn in order to better see the design on their skin.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with 1 in 5 people being diagnosed with it. Sustaining five or more sunburns in youth can increase the risk for melanoma by 80 percent, and having fve or more sunburns at any point in life can double the chances for melanoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.


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"The Skin Cancer Foundation strongly advises the public to avoid sunburns at all costs," said Deborah Sarnoff, M.D., vice president of the organization, in a press release. "A sunburn is not only painful -- it's dangerous, and comes with consequences. Sunburns cause DNA damage to the skin, accelerate skin aging, and increase your lifetime skin cancer risk.

Dr. Thomas Rohrer, a dermatologist based in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, suggests that people looking to participate in the trend apply sunscreen evenly when out in the sun, and instead use a spray tan or self-tanning cream to make the designs on their skin.


"There is no reason to significantly increase your risk for a life threatening skin cancer by intentionally tanning or burning your skin in the sun or tanning booth," Rohrer told CBS News.

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