The Sun and CancerIt may be of no surprise to you that the sun and skin cancer go hand in hand. But did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer? And that in the U.S. alone, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year? Of the three main types of skin cancer, melanoma is the deadliest. It only takes getting sunburned five times as a child to increase the risk of developing melanoma by 80 percent. The other two types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma — are both associated with sunburn and sun exposure. Melanoma requires diagnosis by a medical professional and treatment often involves surgery, radiation, medication- or in other cases, chemotherapy. Avoidance and VigilanceTo prevent sunburn, avoid being out in the sun when possible and use sunscreen and prescription sunglasses when sun exposure is unavoidable. If you have a history of getting sunburned and a mole appears, don’t panic. Learn the ABC’s of skin cancer. Checking moles for asymmetry, border irregularities, color, diameter, and evolution can not only help spot skin cancers early, but can even alert you about potential pre-cancers like actinic keratoses. Sunburn and the Immune SystemOrdinarily the body attacks perceived dangers to prevent illnesses. During sun exposure, however, the body does not recognize the burn as a threat and actually reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. This can lead to a myriad of non-skin illnesses such as internal cancer, chronic infections and breakouts of Herpes simplex. Keep an Eye OutSunburn can be pretty obvious when it occurs on the skin, but the eye can also become sunburned. Symptoms include watering, a gritty feeling, or the sensation that there is something stuck in the eye. Prolonged unprotected sun exposure to the eyes can lead to cataracts, retinal damage and macular degeneration. These potential vision problems highlight the need for prescription sunglasses and hats that provide good shading for the eyes.