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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.
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 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.
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 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.
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). 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.
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 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.
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 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 ?
Gently apply the sunburn slices to the places where your skin is sunburned, and discard after use.
Those who were unintentionally sunburned also had lower positive attitudes towards tanning and had lower body coverage.
The association added that people who have been sunburned before are doubly at risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Cooper was not alone as Brinkley also had sunburned her eyes while skiing.
"The sun is good for us - we all need some sun - but it's really important that we don't get sunburned."
I am so sunburned! I fell asleep with huge glasses on yesterday!
Women and men with medium or dark skin tones can suffer from red, tender, peeled or sunburned skin, and it's recommended that they wear at least an SPF 15 sunscreen.
Inclusion criteria for this study included that subjects be healthy, Caucasian, young, and had been sunburned either the same or previous day.
SUN lotion is being handed out free to the homeless - to stop them getting sunburned on the streets.
If you or your child does get sunburned, get out of the sun right away to prevent further damage.
A study by Cancer Research UK found over a third of British parents admitted their child had been sunburned despite the majority knowing it can have devastating repercussions in adulthood.
In 2004, 69% of the respondents reported having been sunburned at least once during the previous summer, and this was not significantly different from the 72% who reported sunburns in 1998.