Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Financial, Wikipedia.


inflammation of the skin caused by actinic rays from the sun or artificial sources. Moderate exposure to ultraviolet radiationultraviolet radiation,
invisible electromagnetic radiation between visible violet light and X rays; it ranges in wavelength from about 400 to 4 nanometers and in frequency from about 1015 to 1017 hertz.
..... Click the link for more information.
 is followed by a red blush, but severe exposure may result in blisters, pain, and constitutional symptoms. As ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin, they break down collagencollagen
, any of a group of proteins found in skin, ligaments, tendons, bone and cartilage, and other connective tissue. Cells called fibroblasts form the various fibers in connective tissue in the body.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and elastin, the two main structural components of the skin, a process that results in the wrinkled appearance of sun-damaged skin. In addition, the sun damages the DNA of the exposed skin cells. In response, the cells release enzymes that excise the damaged parts of the DNA and encourage the production of replacement DNA (a process that can go wrong and result in skin cancerskin cancer,
malignant tumor of the skin. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Rarer forms include mycosis fungoides (a type of lymphoma) and Kaposi's sarcoma.
..... Click the link for more information.
). At the same time, the production of melaninmelanin
, water-insoluble polymer of various compounds derived from the amino acid tyrosine. It is one of two pigments found in human skin and hair and adds brown to skin color; the other pigment is carotene, which contributes yellow coloring.
..... Click the link for more information.
 increases, darkening the skin. Melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, acts as a barrier to further damage by absorbing ultraviolet light. A suntan results from this attempt by the skin to protect itself. Light-skinned persons and infants are especially susceptible to ultraviolet rays because they lack sufficient protective skin pigment. Certain diseases and drugs may also increase photosensitivity.

Due to the increase in the incidence of skin cancer and the effects of ozone layerozone layer
or ozonosphere,
region of the stratosphere containing relatively high concentrations of ozone, located at altitudes of 12–30 mi (19–48 km) above the earth's surface.
..... Click the link for more information.
 depletion, more attention is being placed on protecting the skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays with broad spectrum sunscreens or clothing. Broad spectrum sunscreens block both UVA and UVB rays (two of the three bands of ultraviolet radiation). The relative UVB protection of a sunscreen is indicated by its SPF (sun protection factor) number. A higher number indicates a sunscreen that is more effective in preventing sunburn, but it is UVA radiation that is more likely to cause cancer and skin aging. A broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is generally recommended by dermatologists. Some products may contain opaque formulations of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that physically block all rays.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


Skin inflammation due to overexposure to sunlight.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. inflammation of the skin caused by overexposure to the sun
2. another word for suntan
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Cooling a sunburned spot in your body with a soft washcloth soaked in icy water should also provide long-lasting relief.
Bowe warned against sunburn or tan lines that are formed when dangerous ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin layers.
Compliance with photoprotection is a recognized problem among XP patients, particularly those without easy sunburn.
"Our study, during a week of perfect weather in Tenerife, showed that sunscreens, even when used optimally to prevent sunburn, allowed excellent vitamin D synthesis," Young said.
Honey can help relieve the pain and itch of sunburn. Just spread a very thin layer of fresh honey on your sunburn, and cover with a thin piece of gauze.
While for most, sunburns may appear as raw, burning skin that peels in a few days, it doesn't always look that way.
Research does not support the habit of getting a tan to prevent subsequent sunburn.
Burns centre matron Clare Baker said: "These are deep thermal burns which we are dealing with, very severe sunburn.
Perna, Ed.D, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, conducted a cross-sectional study to assess whether decision-based modeling can be used to identify patterns of sun-protective behaviors associated with the likelihood of sunburn. Data were included for 28,558 adult respondents with complete data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey.
"But on particularly hot days, people with fairer skin may only need to be out in the sun for as little as 15 minutes to develop signs of sunburn later on.
Or at least it didn't until Laura Lippman's Sunburn came along....
Sunburn: A Novel is the unabridged audiobook rendition of a dramatic, suspenseful story about a passionate love affair between two people harboring potentially deadly secrets.