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Stay in the shade: Advice for skin cancer protection

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Stay in the shade: Advice for skin cancer protection
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As summer quickly approaches, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has joined the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Park Service (NPS) to emphasize the dangers of skin cancer and has provided simple steps Americans can take to protect themselves.

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The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designated the Friday before Memorial Day "Don't Fry Day" as a way to highlight sun safety.

"Skin cancer prevention and sun safety are important issues for EPA -- our primary mission is to protect people's health and the environment," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

"It's important that consumers prevent sunburn and protect themselves from the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging throughout the year," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D.

"The FDA strongly recommends that consumers regularly use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher in combination with other protective measures to more effectively protect themselves and their families whenever they are in the sun."

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and the most common cancer among 20 to 30 year olds. It's estimated that one American dies every hour from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Approximately 76,000 new cases of melanoma will occur this year.

To help protect people's health, EPA's SunWise program, one of the nation's largest environmental and health education programs, encourages kids and their caregivers to practice safe sun habits and raises awareness about UV sunlight that penetrates the Earth's ozone layer.

Here are some tips to help Americans continue to exercise, get outside and be SunWise this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer:

• Check the UV Index app: Check the ultraviolet (UV) index anytime by downloading EPA's app (epa.gov/enviro/mobile) to help plan outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun. UV rays from the sun (and from artificial light sources such as tanning beds) can lead to skin cancer.

• Apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing: Apply a palm-full of sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to exposed skin about 15 minutes before heading outdoors. Reapply every two hours. Wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses also prevents sun damage.

• Seek shade, not sun: The sun's UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so seek shade during this time.

Although less common in individuals with darker complexions, skin cancer does not discriminate and is more often fatal for individuals with darker skin. Overexposure to the sun also causes immune suppression and up to 90 percent of wrinkles, brown spots, leathering of the skin and sagging.

Fact sheets are online at epa.gov/sunwise/statefacts.html.

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