Don’t Fry Day

The ABCs and Your Skin

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By Lina Younes

As we get older, our skin changes.  As part of the natural aging process, it is not uncommon to develop age spots, also known as “liver spots”. Sometimes small growths of skin called skin tags raise to the surface as well. In general, these age tags and spots are harmless. However, some spots and growths might be signs of something much more worrisome than physical appearance alone. These changes may be due to the big “C:” skin cancer.

Studies show that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States largely due to overexposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. So how can you tell if that new growth or sore that doesn’t heal warrants a visit to the doctor?

Check the “ABCDE’s.  These letters stand for

A = Asymmetry (one part of the growth looks different than the other)

B = Borders that are irregular

C = Color changes or more than one color

D = Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser

E = Evolving. In other words the growth is changing in size, shape, symptoms, shades, or even bleeding.

In this case, you should see your doctor right away.

Last summer, my father who is in his 80’s noticed a skin spot that kept on evolving and sometimes bled. He showed it to my cousin, a dermatologist, who immediately ordered a biopsy. The test results showed that it was basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Luckily, it was in its early stages. During an out-patient procedure, the cancer was removed. My father quickly recovered and now monitors his skin regularly to see if there are any abnormal spots or growths.

What steps can be taken to prevent skin cancer?  Well, there are things you can do. What is Number one on the list? Take every day steps to sun safety.  You can enjoy the sun and outdoor activities with the right sunscreen protection and protective clothing. Seek the shade, especially during the times when the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM. Avoid tanning, whether under the sun or UV tanning booths.  Think of these tips during “Don’t Fry Day” and every day of the year!

Do you have any tips about sun safety that you would like to share with us? We will love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Protect Your Skin, Rain Or Shine

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By Lina Younes

In the United States, Memorial Day weekend is considered the kickoff of the summer season when we relax, enjoy outdoor activities and have fun under the sun. Some people even go the extra mile “to get ready” by visiting tanning salons in advance so they won’t seem so pale when they don their bathing suit for the first time. However, did you know that by tanning your skin, whether under the midday sun or in a tanning bed, you are actually damaging your skin? That “frying process” can actually cause skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States?

That’s why EPA,  its federal partners, and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention have come together to educate people about what they can do to protect their health and prevent skin cancer. The Friday before Memorial Day has been designated as “Don’t Fry Day” to make sure that people in this country enjoy outdoor activities while protecting themselves from the harmful ultraviolet rays that shine through even on the cloudiest days.

I confess that my attitude towards the sun has changed over the years. I was one of those that in my teens started using those tanning oils that basically “fried” me. However, with time, and increased awareness I’ve realized the harm I was doing to myself and now I use sunscreen instead when I’m going to be active outdoors. I’ve tried to do my best with my children teaching them to where sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats when they were on the swimming team or playing outside. Luckily, my youngest still is following my advice and happens to love wearing hats and sunglasses. While she does it for fashion purposes, I’m happy for the sun safety benefits as well.

Furthermore, the elderly have to take “additional”  steps for protection – simply they need to take steps to protect themselves.  Repeated sunburns during their youth can come back to haunt them in their golden years. Powerful UV rays can also cause cataracts. My parents, both in their 80’s, have lived most of their life in Puerto Rico. While Mom always uses sunscreen and sunglasses, she has been suffering of cataracts and sun-related damage to her eyes.   Dad, on the other hand, rarely uses sunscreen and he just had a basal cell carcinoma removed last year! At least the cancer was detected early and he is fine now.

So, regardless of your natural skin tone or where you live, you should protect yourself from those harmful ultraviolet rays. EPA has developed a free mobile app you can download to your smartphone with your local UV Index forecast. Have fun under the sun safely! Do you have any sun safety tips you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Hot Times, Summer in the City – Be Sun Smart

A man bathes in the sun in Washington Square Park. (EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

By Bonnie Bellow

The warm weather and the official approach of summer have pulled New Yorkers out of their apartments and into the streets. Everywhere you look, people are soaking up the sun – stretched out on park lawns, grabbing lunch on city benches, perched on stoops or just walking. The sun brings warmth and feelings of well being, but it can also bring skin cancer. How many of the millions of people out and about in New York every day think to apply sunscreen or grab a hat before going out? City dwellers need to be aware that just taking precautions when they go to the beach is not enough to prevent what can be a deadly disease. Eighty percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through light clouds, mist and fog, and snow can reflect more than 80 percent of the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is on the rise among young adults. Everyone needs to be concerned about skin cancer and act to prevent it, no matter who they are or where they live.

I first learned about skin cancer in my 20’s, when to my surprise, an irritation on my forehead turned out to be a basal cell skin cancer. Light skinned and freckled, I roasted as a small child on Long Island beaches and spent my teen years cultivating a lovely tan by smearing myself with baby oil and using a reflector to increase the glow. I paid the price. Luckily for me, the skin cancers that have appeared on my face and chest periodically throughout my adult life have been non-invasive. But, they caused discomfort, anxiety and scars and cost thousands over the years in medical bills. And all that sun increased my risk of developing the more serious type of skin cancer, melanoma.

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day weekend as Don’t Fry Day to remind everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors. Check out their website and learn about SunWise, the EPA program that teaches children and their caregivers about how to protect against overexposure to the sun.

I still enjoy the sun, but I take a few minutes each morning, winter and summer, to apply cream containing sunscreen to my face and slather some sunscreen on my hands and arms if they will be exposed. I wear sunglasses and add a hat when I am going to be outdoors for a stretch or at the beach. We all need the sun for our emotional and physical health, but we need to wear it well!

About the author: Bonnie Bellow has been the Region 2 Director of Public Affairs since 1995, responsible for intergovernmental, media and international relations; community engagement; environmental education; Freedom of Information Act requests; social media and public information. She previously served as Public Affairs Director at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, ran her own media production business and worked as a radio reporter. Bonnie received her Bachelor of Science degree at Northwestern University in Chicago, but is a born and bred New Yorker who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Take It From Me: You Want to Be SunWise on Don’t Fry Day and Every Day

Back in the 60’s, in efforts to help heal a skin condition, my family doctor advocated a high level of sun exposure and UV treatments. Thinking that the sun could only help improve my condition – there were many intentional sun exposures, skin burnings/peelings, convertible top-down rides and sun lamp exposures. Fast forward about 25 years! The sun/UV exposure therapy started to reap negative benefits in my late 40’s – the generation of keratoses started and continued well into my 50’s. By my late 50’s – the crown jewel of skin cancer manifested itself. When I had my skin checked by my dermatologist, he urged me to have a biopsy of a suspicious darkened skin patch on the side of my forehead. Three days later I remember getting the call at work from my dermatologist – “It’s a melanoma and you have to get it out – fast!” My life immediately was placed on hold for three weeks until the surgery. With support and guidance from my wife Marisa, who was an oncology nurse, along with my dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon – the melanoma was removed successfully.

Since that time, I have become an advocate for what I call “sun sense” – especially for young children and adults. Our schools need to take sun safety seriously and run programs designed to make students aware of the damaging effects of the sun – encouraging “sun sense.”

sunwise_logoTo help foster this action, I have written several safety columns in cooperation with my dermatologist for science teachers on how to help students understand the causes, risks and preventative actions needed to help prevent skin cancer – especially at their young age. EPA programs like SunWise and the public health campaign of Don’t Fry Day also help spread the word about this ever increasing problem.

My own lifestyle has changed dramatically as a result of dodging this bullet. I am always searching the Internet for mainstream and alternative health actions to try and help rectify the damage done to my skin. With semiannual skin inspections by my dermatologist, juicing key fruits and vegetables, supplementing with Vitamin D, smart UV clothing, sunscreen and more, I attempt in earnest to reduce and repair damage done as much as possible. In addition, I remain vigilant and missionary in helping to get the word out there – covering up is good sun sense!

Learn how to do full body scans at: www.aad.org/public/exams/self.html

About the author: Dr. Ken Roy is a melanoma skin cancer survivor. He is known as the “safety marshal.” He is an environmental health and safety compliance officer for a public school district in Connecticut, safety consultant and author/columnist worldwide. He is a staunch advocate for what he calls “sun sense.” As part of his advocacy and protection, he wears wide brim western-style hats – thus the “safety marshal” persona was created!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Be Out There – Safely!

DontHi! I’m Anne Keisman and I work on the Be Out There campaign at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Sometimes I can’t believe my luck – every day I am tasked with coming up with new ways to inspire people – especially parents and children — to go outside and play. I’m excited to partner with Don’t Fry Day to spread the word about sun safety. At NWF, we love to promote the positive side of the sun. It helps green things grow, keeps animals warm, and lets us see the world around us.

And children love the sun too. From the moment they can wield a crayon, plump yellow suns show up in their drawings – right next to the fluffy white clouds!

But — like many things in nature — the sun can be dangerous if we don’t take precautions. If you know the facts about protecting your family, you won’t have to be anxious when your family heads out to the beach or the park.  Once you’re protected from UV rays, pledge to spend more time outside with your family. Kids today spend twice as much time indoors as their parents did, missing out on the simple pleasures and lasting mental and physical health benefits of daily outdoor time.

NWF recommends that parents give their kids a “Green Hour” every day — time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world. Be Out There’s practical tools for families, schools and communities make being outdoors a fun, healthy and automatic part of everyday life.

Stumped for ideas for outdoor fun? Check out National Wildlife Federation’s Summer Guide and our Green Hour activities for great tips for your family.

And on June 26, camp under the stars – in your own backyard! Join the Great American Backyard Campout.

Have fun in the sun!

About the author: Anne Keisman is Senior Associate Editor for the Be Out There Campaign at the National Wildlife Federation. Follow her at www.twitter.com/greenhour.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: What do you do to be SunWise and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun?

Did you know that although it’s easy to prevent, there are more cases of skin cancer each year than cases of breast, colon, lung and prostrate cancers combined? Or that skin cancer is affecting younger and younger people? That adds up to more than one million Americans getting skin cancer annually. Every year, the Friday before Memorial Day is designated as Don’t Fry Day as a reminder to be SunWise and protect your skin while enjoying the outdoors.

What do you do to be SunWise and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Why “Don’t Fry Day” Isn’t Just Another Friday

Go to EPA's Science Month pageAbout the author: A skin cancer survivor, Stephene Moore is the wife of Congressman Dennis Moore and a member of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program. She has been helping EPA’s SunWise Program since 2006. As part of this year’s Don’t Fry Day campaign, sponsored by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, EPA asked her to share her personal experience with skin cancer as a guest blogger on Greenversations. The Friday before Memorial Day is Don’t Fry Day.

image of author in radio studio
Stephene Moore, hours after Mohs surgery to remove a skin cancer above her lip, giving a radio interview.

With Don’t Fry Day just three days away, it’s important to remember to Slip on a shirt! Slop on some sunscreen! Slap on a hat! ® and Wrap on some sunglasses today and every day. I’ve learned the importance of being smart in the sun the hard way.

As a teen, I used to cover myself in baby oil that we girls all added iodine to, and sit out in the sun by the pool or in the backyard. As an adult, I even hopped into a tanning bed once in awhile to get a “safe tan” so I wouldn’t burn on a beach vacation! Little did I know at the time that there’s no such thing as a “safe tan,” unless it comes from a bottle.

My sun-seeking and tanning caught up with me in November, 2007. I was taking off my makeup and noticed a tiny black spot that I couldn’t wipe off. I waited a month before visiting my dermatologist in the hopes it would go away. When it didn’t, I set up an appointment. Just a few days after the doctor biopsied the spot on my nose, a nurse called with the results: it was skin cancer!

A small pit in my stomach began to form after hearing the “C” word: cancer. Hearing the word “cancer” used in the same sentence as my own name is a little unsettling. Luckily, the cancer I had was very treatable. I’ll never be able to say I’m cancer-free, but after three surgeries, the doctor was able to remove all the cancer they could find. The experience has left a lasting impression—literally and figuratively.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are responsible for most skin cancers. UV reaches the Earth’s surface in two forms: UVA and UVB. UVA is associated with premature aging and wrinkling of the skin. UVB, which is associated with sunburn, is mostly blocked by the ozone layer. Unfortunately, the ozone layer isn’t perfect. While on behalf of the United States, EPA works with 194 other countries to heal the ozone layer, it’s more important than ever to be smart in the sun.

To protect my skin and eyes, I wear a hat and sunglasses, and keep extra sunscreen all over the house and in the car, so I remember to put it on year round. I’ll never know which day by the pool or trip to the tanning bed gave me cancer, but please learn from my mistakes and remember to Slip! Slop! Slap! ® and Wrap! each time you spend time outside.

For more sun safety tips from the SunWise Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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