#SunburnArt? Experts warn against dangerous social media trend

People are sharing photos on social media of a new type of body art: designs created by exposing certain parts of the skin to the sun without protection. The hashtag #SunburnArt quickly caught on. From elaborate flower patterns to the Batman logo, these designs resemble temporary tattoos, but experts warn the habit is dangerous.

“While it may be entertaining, it is intentionally exposing your skin to harmful ultraviolet radiation,” Dr. Thomas Rohrer, a dermatologist based in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, told CBS News. “Sunburns and tans have been definitively linked to skin cancer and aging of the skin.”

According to current estimates, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common form of cancer in the United States.

The Skin Cancer Foundation released a statement today denouncing sunburn art.

“The Skin Cancer Foundation strongly advises the public to avoid sunburns at all costs,” the group’s senior vice president, Dr. Deborah S. Sarnoff, wrote. “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. In fact, sustaining five or more sunburns in youth increases lifetime melanoma risk by 80 percent. On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.”

To protect yourself, regularly apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed areas of the skin.

And if you’re interested in sunburn art, Rohrer suggests “it would be far safer to do this with a spray tan or self tanning cream. 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.”

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