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Keywords:

  • erythema;
  • skin cancer;
  • sunburn;
  • sunscreen;
  • UVR exposure

Summary

Many people take holidays in sunny locations with the express aim of sunbathing. This may result in sunburn, which is a risk factor for skin cancer. We investigated 25 Danish sun seekers during a week's holiday in the Canary Islands. The percentage of body surface area with sunburn was determined by daily skin examinations by the same observer. Erythemally effective ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure was assessed with time-stamped personal dosimeters worn on the wrist. Volunteers reported their clothing cover and sunscreen use in diaries, and this information was used to determine body site-specific UVR doses after adjustment for sun protection factor. Remarkably, we found that all volunteers sunburned at some point. The risk of sunburn correlated significantly with the adjusted body site-specific UVR dose. Furthermore, there was also a significant relationship between the daily UVR dose and percentage of body surface area with sunburn. Our study shows that holiday UVR exposure results in a high risk of sunburn, which potentially increases the risk of skin cancer. Possible protection by melanogenesis is insufficient to protect against sunburn during a 1-week sun holiday. Finally, our data clearly support a substantial skin cancer risk from sun holidays.