So it’s off to the mountains, the beach, or maybe even a weekend at home enjoying a cookout or some other festivity. Vacation season is here, and so is the second annual “Don’t Fry Day” tomorrow, Friday (get it?) May 28th.
This celebration of “Don’t Fry Day” is brought to you by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, the American Cancer Society and many other organizations committed to reminding everyone that while it’s great to get outdoors and enjoy yourself it’s also extremely important to remember to do those things that will protect you from the damaging rays of the sun.
Skin cancer is no simple matter. Just recently the American Cancer Society acknowledged—based on new research—that the number of people diagnosed with “typical” skin cancers every year has increased from 1 million to 2 million persons. And, the actual number of skin cancers diagnosed is much higher than that, since multiple skin cancers occur frequently occur on one person.
Skin cancer is usually—but not always—a disease diagnosed later in life. But the damage that sets things in motion starts at a young age. Sunburns in youth are one of the major predictive factors for skin cancer in older age. It’s hard for young people (and the parents of young people) to understand the risk relationship, because there are decades from exposure to impact. But it is the early damage and the cumulative effects of unsafe sun exposure that sets the process in motion.
And the damage happens so easily, sometimes without even thinking about it—especially in these early days of vacation season.
For example, my son came home from school the other day, and there was the early redness of sunburn on his face and arms. And he had only spent a short time out of doors that afternoon.
Since he enjoys being outdoors (he is a budding golfer), he got the lecture from dad that every kid ignores. Maybe he will put a tube of sunscreen in his golf and/or gym bag so the next time he will be prepared. Hopefully he will at least think about what is going on in his body, and protect himself a bit more than he did this past week. Consider it an early warning sign of the sun.
We all have those experiences, and we should all learn from them. So what should you do?
A few simple words sum up what you need to know: Slip, slop, slap and wrap. Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a wide brimmed hat, and wrap on a pair of those cool looking UV protective sun glasses.
When you slop on the sunscreen, use plenty and use it often. If you stay outside a long time, remember that you need to reapply sunscreen regularly. If you sweat, reapply. If you swim, reapply. Just use it, and don’t forget it—it’s your best friend when you are out of doors.
When possible, cover up with sun-protective clothing, and seek the shade. Sit under an umbrella when enjoying the beach. And try to avoid the sun during peak hours of 10-4. Another good thing to keep in mind is to look for the UV index where you are going for the day. That will give you an idea of how dangerous the sun is going to be that day.
A couple of other thoughts:
- Enjoy yourself outdoors. It’s part of a healthy lifestyle. But at the same time, be “sun smart” and protect yourself. Follow the recommendations above, and above all use some common sense.
- Don’t seek the sun for vitamin D. You can get plenty of that with an over the counter, inexpensive pill and avoid the risks that come with continued and/or excessive sun exposure. Don’t use vitamin D as an excuse to put yourself at risk. You don’t have to do that to be healthy.
So whatever you do this weekend and for the rest of the summer, enjoy yourself, protect yourself, and remember “Don’t Fry Day” tomorrow. Its message will go a long way to keeping your summer safe, enjoyable, and memorable for all the right reasons.
Have fun and enjoy!