As millions of families prepare to enjoy the great outdoors this weekend, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reminds everyone to bring their hats, sunglasses and sunscreen, and seek shade. The number one preventable risk factor for skin cancer is overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, whether from the sun or artificial sources of light. To educate the public about how to prevent skin cancer and cataracts, EPA has teamed up with the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to promote sun safety on the Friday before Memorial Day – “Don’t Fry Day.”
“Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The good news is you can protect yourself and your family members from too much sun, the main cause of skin cancer. EPA is educating the public about the dangers of UV rays and the benefits of sun-safe behavior. Informed actions taken every day by individuals are an important part of protecting the health of children, families and the environment.”
More new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year than new cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined, with more than one million Americans affected every year. While the incidence of many common cancers is falling, the incidence of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, continues to rise significantly. Melanoma is now one of the most common cancers among young adults ages 15 to 29.
The rate of new melanoma diagnoses – responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths – has increased by about 5% per year among New Jersey residents from the early 1990s to 2006. An estimated 2,530 state residents were diagnosed with melanoma in 2009. Cape May County has the highest rate of new melanoma diagnoses in the state and ranks among the highest 2% of counties nationwide. Nearly 245 people in New Jersey die of melanoma every year. Warren County has the highest melanoma death rate in the state, 63% higher than the national average from 2002-2006.
EPA is promoting Don’t Fry Day through its SunWise program, in which students across the country are learning how to Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap, and Seek Shade: Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen (SPF 15+), slap on a wide-brimmed hat, wrap on sunglasses, and seek shade during midday hours.
SunWise is the nation’s largest environmental and health education program aimed at teaching children to protect their skin. On Don’t Fry Day, schools will be broadcasting the UV Index over their loud speakers, engaging in SunWise activities, and holding school-wide sun safety events. The UV Index is a forecast of the next-day’s peak UV radiation level for any given location in the U.S.