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Friday, May 25, 2012

Don't fry

EPA: Protect Yourself from the Sun this Summer!
The beach can be the world's largest frying pan

Editor's note: as we approach Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of our summer, it's a good time to review some sun healthy advice.

The warming temperatures will bring many people out into the sun to get a little color on their skins. The sun, while being the source of all life on Earth, is also quite lethal if exposed for too long. As summer approaches, it is good to remember a few things about protecting your skin from the great ball of fire in the sky.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has teamed up with the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and National Park Service (NPS) in a joint effort to spread the word. They have designated the Friday before Memorial Day as "Don't Fry Day" to highlight the important message.

"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.

"While the agency has made steady progress protecting the Earth's ozone layer, the SunWise program and Don't Fry Day help teach children and families simple steps to stay safe in the sun and protect themselves from harmful UV rays."

According to the FDA, preventing skin cancer, due to its prevalence, is an important part of their mission. They recommend people use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher in combination with other protective measures.

Such protective measure are being stressed by the NPS, an agency responsible for maintaining America's beautiful national parks. Because their constituents are always outside hiking, canoeing, or whatever, they give sun protection tips to everybody. For example, it is good to wear a hat and critical to drink plenty of water.

The government agencies acknowledge that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, especially for 20-30 year olds. There is an estimated one American who dies every hour from melanoma, and 76,000 new melanoma cases will occur this year.

EPA has also created the SunWise program to encourage kids and parents to practice safe sun habits. Their advice includes:

Check the UV Index. This is available by downloading the EPA's app ( UV rays from the sun are known to cause skin cancer.

Apply a palm-full of sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Broad spectrum sun screen should be used to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. It should be applied 15 minutes before going outside and reapplied every 2 hours.

Wear protective clothing. This includes a wide brimmed hat to cover the face and neck. Sunglasses are also a good idea.

Learn to love the shade. The best advice for being outside in the hot sun is to spend time in the shade as often as possible. The sun's UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. This is the best time to seek cover.

For more information, go to the EPA's SunWise Program.