The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day”–a day to encourage awareness of sun safety in hopes of reducing the rates of skin cancer caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. With a little planning, you can enjoy the summer sun and protect your skin–not just on this day, but every day.
The Importance of Sun Safety
Sunshine is enjoyable–but too much exposure to the sun can be dangerous. Overexposure to UV rays can result in more than a painful sunburn. It can also lead to more serious health problems, including melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed in the US each year than all other cancers combined.
Skin cancer can be the result of sun exposure over a long period of time and can affect anyone–regardless of skin color. Children are particularly at risk. This is why it is important to always practice sun safety.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Skin
Even though certain skin cancers can be highly curable if detected and treated early, it is still highly important to stay smart in the sun. Before you head outside, think “Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap”–a catchy little phrase that can help you remember important steps that can protect your skin from UV rays.
- SLIP on a shirt or under some shade to buffer the sun’s rays
- SLOP on broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) and reapply every 2 hours
- SLAP on a wide-brimmed hat to protect sensitive areas such as the face and neck
- WRAP on sunglasses that block at least 99% of UV light to protect your eyes and the skin around them
Other ways you can fight against overexposure to UV light can include:
- Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps
- Schedule outdoor activities for early morning or late afternoon, when UV rays are less intense and temperatures may be more tolerable.
- Check the UV Index to determine the strength of the sun’s UV rays in your area. The higher the number, the greater the risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. A UV Index reading higher than 6 means a high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure, and it is best to reduce your time in the sun from 10 am until 4 pm.
- Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand, which can reflect UV rays. Don’t skip sunscreen, even if you are in the shade around these reflective surfaces, you are still at risk for sun damage
- Get vitamin D safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements and foods fortified with vitamin D, such as eggs, mushrooms, low-fat dairy products, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
- Have your home and car windows tinted (in compliance with Arizona state laws)
- Perform skin self-examinations each month and follow the ABCDE rule
If you find any abnormal growths or spot on your skin, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.
Keep in mind that extreme UV rays reach Arizona all year, not just in summer. With that said, there is no reason to fear the sun. Have fun in it, practice sun safety, and encourage others to do it, too!