May 27th, 2016. The final Friday of the month. The Friday leading in to Memorial Day weekend – a weekend that is the general start to summer. A weekend that see’s many of us outside sitting, playing, barbecuing, swimming, boating, riding bikes… In large part, “soaking up the sun.”
In the spirit of that: May 27th also happens to be National “Don’t Fry Day.” Get it? No? Well, allow us to learn you a thing or two… It starts with the sun’s UV rays, and the part those rays play in the development of skin cancer. Sorry to kill the mood for a minute. But seriously, you need to think about your skin before you start lazing around outside, letting the sun literally fry your largest organ like a salted pork rind.
Will Ferrell is funny. Burnt skin is not.
Here’s the good news: Skin cancer is a largely preventable disease
Okay, more bad news: It can also be deadly.
Skin cancer continues to be the most common type of cancer in the nation, with almost 5 million cases being diagnosed in the United States alone last year. That’s more than breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers combined. That’s right, COMBINED.
There for, we have “Don’t Fry Day” as a simple reminder to educate you, the public. “Don’t Fry Day” aims to reduce the incidence of skin cancer by promoting sun safety and encouraging people to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors.
In 2014, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office issued a Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer due to the increasing rates of skin cancer in this country. Have you read it yet? (Probably not… It’s okay.) To sum it up in a neat little nutshell, then Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., stated, “The rates of skin cancer in our nation are increasing, creating a serious public health concern we cannot ignore.”
Following the trend of many states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now considering a proposed rule banning the use of sunlamp products among minors. This would be great progress toward the prevention of skin cancer. In fact, we took to the stand and played a part in getting sun tan bed use banned for kids under 18-years-of-age in our fair state of New Hampshire. We also marched right to the capital and had governor Maggie Hassan sign a proclamation introducing the entire month of May as “Melanoma Awareness Month” here in the Granite State.
Remember this when you set out to obtain that bronzed skin look so many American’s long for as the days turn to sunny summer fun: There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Whether in direct sun or by exposure to harmful UV radiation from tanning beds or sun lamps, individuals are damaging their skin and increasing their risk of skin cancer. A tan is a clear indicator of skin damage, not health. There’s not a lot of beauty in that, eh? (Sorry.)
While the skin needs sunlight to help manufacture vitamin D, important for normal bone health, overexposure to UV light can be detrimental by damaging and killing skin cells. If you want to be safe, there exists the recommendation by The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to obtain healthy vitamin D levels through supplements and certain foods.
Protecting yourself. It seems obvious, but the reality is, a lot of us aren’t taking action.
Here’s how you can help yourself from frying, not just on National “Don’t Fry Day,” but any day:
- Wear Sunscreen – This simple action can save your skin, and potentially your life. Use a water-resistant sunscreen with 30 SPF or above, and remember to re-apply every couple hours, especially during intense activity.
- Remember the Less Obvious Body Parts – Don’t forget those ears, shoulders, neck, lips, and the top of the head -regardless of your hair, the sun finds its way through any small window.
- Wear Sun Protective Clothing – Wear a shirt. Lighter colored fabrics may feel cooler on the skin, but darker fabrics actually work better to shield and deflect UV radiation. For the head and neck, consider a sun hat or bandana. And don’t forget sunglasses. Your eyes are important too.
- Consider Spending Time Outdoors During Off-Peak Hours – Though lunchtime is sometimes one of our only free hours of the day, it’s also when UV rays are strongest. Avoiding the 10am-4pm timeframe is strongly recommended. Set that alarm a little earlier and get your morning run in before work, or wait until after you’ve digested your dinner…
- Use Extra Caution Near Water and Sand – These surfaces reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn. It’s true.
Okay, in parting, let’s lighten this up a bit… Enjoy your Memorial Day celebrations. Bring on summer!