eli5 How do sun burns lead to cancer?


4/16/2023 Washington Post: “It may be hard to believe, but a sunburn you got in your teens could be responsible for the skin cancer you develop in your 50s. Each time you burn, you elevate your risk.”

In: 9

A sunburn is a radiation burn caused by ultraviolet light from the sun damaging skin cells, specifically to their DNA. Cells that survive and divide after the sunburn can pass down the resulting mutations to future generations of skin cells. Mutations to certain segments of the DNA can result in cells becoming cancerous. More sunburns mean more damaged DNA.

Not a derm, but a skincare enthousiast. From what I know, skin is an organ, and as many organs it sustains damage as we live and use them (with the exception of the liver that can regenerate providing you don’t go too hard on it). UV rays attack the skin and our skin works hard to protect us. It thus gets old from all that work.
Cancer is when cells lose the plot and become mad. So instead of working FOR you, they start to multiply like crazy and eat everything in sight like hungry caterpillars. Including healthy functioning cells.
Anyone can develop a cancer but it’s more likely if you’ve given your cells a reason to overwork and burnout. Like UV rays, smoking, bad food, lack of sleep, stress, drinking to excess etc…and of course old age.
Not sure I explained wekl, but this is my understanding!

I’m not going to pretend to fully understand medical issues, but I’ll talk to you a bit about this from the physics side.

Cancer is caused when the instructions (DNA) for a cell get screwed up and it starts copying itself wrong. The rays from the sun rip through the cells instructions and mess them all up.

More detailed explanation: the suns rays are partly made of UV light which is *ionizing radiation* (ionizing radiation includes UV, X-ray and gamma radiation). As the light ray hits a DNA molecule, it will cause some of the atoms in it to ionize which means they don’t want to hold hands anymore and the molecule will rearrange.

When the DNA gets copied, it copies over this mistake and the instructions can cause the cell to go out of control and keep copying itself.

The radiation penetrates into the nuclei damaging the DNA , causing new sells to be a little different over and over until it turns cancerous.

The ‘burn’ is our bodies immune system heating up the skin cells to kill them off in case they were damaged by UV.
Could some skin cancers come from cells that were severely stressed/damaged by the immune response but didn’t die? They just were damaged enough to impact the DNA and result in a cancerous cell?