Bake your back and you may pay the price long after the redness fades:
Sunburns on your back are more likely to lead to melanoma—the deadliest
form of skin cancer—than burns in any other location, research from
In the study, men who had a severe sunburn on their back—even just
one—were more than twice as likely to develop melanoma than those
who’d never been sunburned.
Men who had sunburns on their lower limbs, faces, or arms still had an
increased risk of melanoma compared those who hadn't had a sunburn
anywhere, but it was not as significant a risk as for those whose backs
had been burned.
So why is your back so susceptible to the sun? It may be because your back
is much less likely to receive regular exposure to the sun than your face,
arms, or legs are, says study author Shaowei Wu, PhD. Then, when you whip
off your shirt at the beach or on a sweltering run, your back suddenly
receives hours-long sun exposure. And that level of intensive sun not
only sends your risk of sunburn soaring, but also increases the subsequent
threat of melanoma, Wu says.
Your move is simple: When the shirt comes off, the sunblock goes on. The
American Academy of Dermatology recommends using one with broad-spectrum
protection of 30 SPF or higher, applied every 2 hours.
And if you’ve already suffered a severe sunburn in the past, particularly
on your trunk, you need to check your skin about every 3 months for signs
of melanoma, Wu says. (Also make an appointment with a dermatologist for
a yearly skin check.) These include things like new moles or changes in
existing moles, blemishes, and freckles.
Spot something suspicious? Call your doctor or dermatologist. She can take
a look, and if it seems abnormal, biopsy it to see if it’s cancer.
Originally featured on Prevention.com