Memorial Weekend traditionally marks the unofficial opening to sunburn season and the Friday before has been officially declared Don’t Fry Day.
It’s a preemptive strike to put sun damage front and center in your mind. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention wants you to be sun protected; they want you to practice sun safe behavior, teach it, talk about it, and make it as American as apple pie.
You or your loved ones double your risk of getting melanoma (the potentially deadly big C skin cancer) with:
- One severe sunburn in childhood
- 5 or more sunburns as an adult
From now until mid-October I’ll see sunburned skin in my office, at the grocery store, walking around town, and everywhere I go! You know from experience that it’s so easy to “forget” sun protection or to lose track of time at a graduation, wedding, BBQ, softball game, pulling weeds in the garden, etc. It’s why you need to expect it. You’re going to end up in the sun longer than you think, so you need to always be prepared in advance.
There are 5 simple steps for smart sun protection. Do them every day for yourself and your family:
- Apply broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen.
- Wear sun-protective clothing to cover your skin.
- Wear a broad-brimmed had (not visor or ball cap).
- Wear UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Always be in the shade when you can. (Who are those people sitting in the direct sun at ball games and the beach?)
You also need to know that it takes extra resolve to sun protect. Culturally, sun bathing and tanning have been associated with a sense of well-being and the good life. It’s even addictive. I know; I was an addicted tanner until the big reality check that came in my dermatology residency in San Diego: cutting off skin cancer after skin cancer on people just like me. (Click here to read my story Tanning Addiction: Dermatologist’s Personal Story.) A lot of people still haven’t gotten “the memo” and justify their “actinic indiscretions” in the name of vitamin D. Sadly, it’s job security for my kind, so don’t do it.
Heavy-hitting organizations have taken up the charge to change Americans’ behavior. Groups like the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, US EPA, and other federal departments have teamed up to get sun protection front and center on your mind this summer. It starts with Don’t Fry Day and the Memorial Day weekend. See the team that makes up the National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention and No Fry Day. If your an educator, sign up for the EPA’s Sunwise program to get educational resources for your classroom and a chance to win a real-time TV monitor and other teaching aids for your class.
To learn more about my specific advice for smart sun protection (and how you can have a full, fun, and rewarding summer outside minus the sun damage), read what I tell and teach my dermatology patients in the posts listed below.
Photo, thanks and gratitude to D Sharon Pruitt