Sunburn Facts & Statistics

Discover starling new statistics about sun burns and how to better prevent them.

Sunburn is a common and preventable health concern that affects millions of people every year.

Despite the well-known risks of sun exposure and the importance of sun protection, many individuals continue to experience the painful and damaging effects of sunburn.

In this article, we will explore sunburn facts and statistics and examine the prevalence and impact of this condition on individuals and society. We will discuss the factors that contribute to sunburns, which populations are most at risk, and explore the potential long-term consequences of sunburns and how they related to skin cancer.

By understanding the scope of the problem and the importance of prevention, we can work together to reduce the incidence of sunburn and promote healthier sun exposure habits.

Sunburn Statistics: Important Data

Over 33,000 sunburns require a trip to the emergency room every year.

One study shows that over 33,000 sunburns on average are reported each year that require an emergency room visit. These severe sunburns can occur among people of all racial and ethnic groups.[14]

Over 50% of students in grades 9-12 experienced a sunburn in the past year.

In 2017, 57.2% of students in grades 9-12 were sunburned in the past year.[14] Adolescent individuals may be more likely to get sunburned than adults for several reasons due to lack of awareness of the dangers associated with sun exposure, and the increased level of risk tolerance associated with younger individuals.

Many young people struggle with worrying about the ramifications that their actions might cause for them ten or twenty years down the line.

On top of that, younger adolescents may be more likely to engage in outdoor activities such as swimming or sports with friends, resulting in increased exposure to the sun. Hormonal changes may also affect the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, making adolescents more at risk for a bad sunburn.

It’s important for parents and caregivers to educate adolescents about the dangers of sun exposure and the importance of sun protection, including wearing protective clothing, seeking shade during peak sun hours, and using sunscreen with a high SPF. With proper education and precautions, the risk of sunburn and skin damage can be minimized.

60-80% of your lifetime sun exposure occurs in the first 18 years of your life.

Younger people are exposed to the sun more often, and it’s estimated that 60%-80% of an individual’s entire lifetime sun exposure occurs within the first 18 years. Younger individuals tend to spend much more time outside, often due to numerous extracurricular activities outdoors.[15]

Sunburns during childhood can increase the odds of developing melanoma later in life.

Getting five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15-20 increases an individual’s melanoma risk by 80% and non-melanoma skin cancer risk by 68%.[12]

Sunburn Facts: What You Need to Know

Light pink skin is still a sun burn

UV radiation penetrates the skin and causes damage to the cells, leading to inflammation and redness. Even a light pink color on the skin indicates that the skin cells have been damaged and are reacting to the UV radiation.

No matter how mild, every burn is a sign of injury to your skin, which can result in premature aging and/or skin cancer.

It’s important to note that the severity of a sunburn is not always reflected in the degree of redness or pinkness on the skin — especially if you have a darker or more olive complexion.

Even a single sunburn can increase your risk of cancer.

Just one severe, blistering sunburn in childhood or early adolescence can 2x a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.[4] An average adult’s risk for melanoma increases 2x if they’ve had more than five sunburns.

How long will a sunburn lasts? It depends on how bad it is.

How long a sunburn will take to heal depends on the severity of the burn.

  • Mild sunburns, which have symptoms of skin redness and some pain, and can last three to five days.
  • Moderate sunburns can leave your skin red, swollen, and hot to the touch. These sunburns take roughly a week to fully heal.
  • Severe sunburns can result in painful blistering and extremely red skin. These sunburns take up to two weeks to heal completly.

If you burn easily and get sunburns often, you’re at increased risk for skin cancer.

Other risk factors for various types of skin cancer include[13]:

  • Skin that burns easily
  • Blonde or red hair
  • History of excessive sun exposure
  • History of tanning bed use
  • Weakened immune system
  • History of skin cancer in the family

You can still get sunburned on an overcast day.

It’s possible to get sunburned on an overcast day because clouds don’t completely block the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. While clouds can reduce the intensity of UV radiation, they do not provide complete protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

UV radiation can penetrate through clouds, and even on a cloudy day, up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation can reach the earth’s surface.[16] This means that even if the sun is not visible, the UV radiation can still penetrate the skin and cause damage.

In addition, other factors can affect UV radiation levels, such as altitude and proximity to water. Higher altitudes and being near water can increase UV radiation levels and increase the risk of sunburn.

Who is prone to sunburns?

People of all ages, skin types, and ethnic background can be vulnerable to sun damage and sunburns. But, your risk is higher if you:

  • Have freckles
  • Have very fair skin
  • Have red or blonde hair
  • Are frequently exposed to sunlight reflected from snow or water
  • Live near the equator or at high altitudes
  • Have a history of skin cancer in your family
  • Take medications that can make your skin more sensitive and easier to burn

Men are more likely to get sunburns than women.

Men are considerably more at risk for sun burns than women. Between 2015-2019, skin cancer rates for men has hovered around 30%, compared to just 20% for women.

This is likely due to the fact that men generally speaking tend to spend more time outdoors in the sun than women, whether it’s for work or leisure. They may engage in activities such as outdoor sports or construction work, which can lead to prolonged sun exposure and an increased risk of sunburn.

On top of that, men are less likely to use sun protection than women. Studies have shown that women are more likely to use sunscreen and wear protective clothing than men. One study[2] found that less than 15% of men (compared with 30% of women) said they regularly used sunscreen on their face and other exposed areas of the body.

FAQs — Sunburn Facts and Stats

When are you most likely to get a sunburn?

You’re most likely to get a sunburn when UV rays are strongest — specifically, during summer months and when the sun is directly overhead between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Will one sunburn give me skin cancer?

It is unlikely that a single sunburn will directly give you cancer. However, repeated sun exposure and sunburns over time can increase your risk of developing skin cancer — a person’s risk of melanoma increased 2x once you’ve had over five sunburns. And while a single sunburn as an adult won’t give you cancer, even just one really bad sunburn as a child can 2x your chances of melanoma when you get older.

How many sunburns cause cancer?

On average, an individual’s risk for melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns. But even just one severe, blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence can more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.[4]

What state has highest rate of skin cancer?

According to data from the CDC[5], Utah, Vermont and Minnesota have the highest rates of skin cancer. Texas, Alaska and New Mexico have the lowest rates of skin cancer. This is likely due to the fact that people living in states with more fun do a better job of protecting themselves from the sun by applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing. This becomes a regular, daily habit for these individuals.


  4. Skin Cancer Foundation
  7. Siegel RL, Miller KD, Fuchs HE, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2022. CA Cancer J Clin. 2022;72(1):7-33. doi:10.3322/caac.21708.
  8. Stern RS. Prevalence of a history of skin cancer in 2007: results of an incidence-based model. Arch Dermatol. 2010 Mar;146(3):279-82.
  9. Guy GP, Thomas CC, Thompson T, Watson M, Massetti GM, Richardson LC. Vital signs: Melanoma incidence and mortality trends and projections—United States, 1982–2030. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(21):591-596.
  10. Agbai ON, Buster K, Sanchez M, Hernandez C, Kundu RV, Chiu M, Roberts WE, Draelos ZD, Bhushan R, Taylor SC, Lim HW. Skin cancer and photoprotection in people of color: a review and recommendations for physicians and the public. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014;70(4):748-62.
  11. Lazovich D, Isaksson Vogel R, Weinstock MA, Nelson HH, Ahmed RL, Berwick M. Association Between Indoor Tanning and Melanoma in Younger Men and Women. JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(3):268-275. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.2938.
  12. Wu S, Han J, Laden F, Qureshi AA. Long-term ultraviolet flux, other potential risk factors, and skin cancer risk: a cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomar Prev; 2014. 23(6); 1080-1089.
  13. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2022. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2022.

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