skin cancer

It’s Don’t Fry Day– Protect Your Skin Today and Every Day

Today is Don’t Fry Day, a day designated to remind Americans about the dangers of skin cancer and how to protect themselves. As we enter the summer season, we join with the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to remind Americans that each year more people are diagnosed with this largely preventable disease. Today, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting nearly five million Americans annually with a price tag of $8.1 billion. Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

The SunWise program works to educate Americans about the simple steps they can take to stay safe in the sun all year long. These tips include checking the UV Index to plan outdoor activities when the sun is less intense. Our free UV Index app gives you an hourly forecast from your smartphone. Seek shade during the sun’s peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. And, my personal favorite: Slip, Slop, Slap, and Wrap: Slip on a shirt. Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen. Slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and wrap on sunglasses.

This month marks the 15th anniversary of SunWise. Since 2000, more than 58,000 educators have joined SunWise and used its educational resources to teach children about stratospheric ozone, UV radiation, and the health effects of overexposure to UV radiation. These educators represent more than 34,000 schools and over 7,000 other partners from state and local health departments, non-profits, science and children’s museums, camps, scouts, 4-H clubs, and universities.

I’m proud of what we, together with our partners, have achieved. As we celebrate SunWise’s anniversary, I am pleased to announce a new collaboration between EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) that will extend the reach of SunWise and keep the momentum going. In working with health professionals, weathercasters, land managers, teachers and others, NEEF connects with millions of people and will be able to bring important SunWise messages and actions to a new and broader audience.

Today, we formalized this collaborative relationship with NEEF in a Memorandum of Understanding. I’m looking forward to a bright future for SunWise but some shade for me this weekend!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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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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"That Healthy Glow"

By Becky Bronstein (Student Intern Region 3 Summer 2012)

With my fair skin and red hair I always knew I had to be careful when it came to sun exposure. I was especially aware of my risk after a trip to my dermatologist when I was proclaimed the “moley-est” of my family. When I went to the beach as a kid I was forced to wear baggy t-shirts to protect my sensitive back and shoulders as well as wear a wide brim hat to shield me from UV rays; not to mention a healthy slathering of the kind of sunscreen that refused to rub in, leaving me even more white and pasty.

As a senior in high school I thought I had it all. I was captain of two varsity sports, class president, and involved in a slew of extracurricular activities. I had a wonderful group of friends, a supportive family, and a recent acceptance into the college of my choice. However, in the spring of 2011 when I visited my dermatologist for a routine mole check I was told I needed to surgically remove an “interesting” looking mole from my right shoulder immediately. Even though I was well aware that my mom had recently had a malignant mole on her forearm, I never thought some “interesting” mole could amount to anything. Shortly thereafter I had the mole removed. I was playing softball the very next day.

When the test results came back I learned that the mole was pre-cancerous. Where did I go wrong? Sure my fair skin and maybe genetics put me at an increased risk, but I thought I took all of the precautions. Oh wait, could it have been those long weekends in the sun playing softball? Could it have been that time I didn’t reapply sunscreen after hours at the beach? Surely those sunburns I could count on one hand couldn’t have brought me to the brink of cancer. What if I had not gone to the dermatologist or waited just a few more months for my check up?

I am 18 years young and I will have a wormy looking scar on my right shoulder for the rest of my life. At first I was scared of what that scar represented. It was a reminder that I could have had cancer. Now, however, the scar is a part of me and it serves instead as a reminder of the precautions I must take.

Cancer doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care if you are only 17, if your family has already had enough of it or even if you’ve tried to avoid it. Cancer can affect anyone. By no means will I stay indoors during the hours of 10 am to 4 pm or panic at the appearance of a new freckle, but I will continue to wear protective clothing and seek shade when I can. I can do without that “healthy” glow. I’ll stick with my pasty white sunscreen.

About the author: Rebecca Bronstein completed a volunteer internship this summer in the Air Protection Division at EPA Region 3 where her work focused on climate change, promoting renewable energy and educating students. Becky is a rising sophomore at the University of Delaware, where she is majoring in Environmental Science as a member of the Honors Program and the Dean’s List.

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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Sunny Slopes – Ski Safely!

By Julie Kunrath

Pausing at the top of the ski slope, you look down to take in the magnificent view—a scattering of white-dusted trees, rocky peaks glowing on the horizon, powdery snow begging for fresh tracks…

…and high levels of ultraviolet radiation reflecting back at you.

Where’s your sunscreen?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun isn’t just a summer concern. Sunburns happen year-round, and sun protection is especially important for winter sports, since UV radiation reflects off snow. Because of this reflection, UV intensity can be deceptively high, even in the shade. In addition, UV radiation increases with altitude because there is less chance for the atmosphere to absorb the sun’s rays. Skiing at 8,000 feet certainly offers epic views, but it also exposes you to the invisible danger of UV radiation.

As an avid skier, my father put my siblings and me on skis at an early age. Following many of my childhood skiing adventures, I remember the infamous “goggle tan”—a distinct white mask surrounded by red skin. Back then, I was just embarrassed to have a “raccoon face.” Today I understand this was a sign of overexposure to UV radiation. This was a sunburn, an indication of damaged skin and a risk factor for future skin cancer.

As the most common cancer in the U.S., skin cancer is no light matter. Every hour, one American dies from skin cancer. The good news is that skin cancer is preventable with simple sun safety strategies, like sunscreen. As a tough man of the mountains, my dad never wore sunscreen when he skied, so neither did I. I didn’t wise up until a few years ago when my older brother handed me a sunscreen bottle while gearing up for a ski day. Sometimes older brothers know best.

My advice for all snow worshippers: keep a small bottle of sunscreen in the pocket of your winter jacket. Make sure it’s broad spectrum with SPF 30 or higher. pic of UV Widget Slather it on your exposed skin before you hit the slopes and every two hours thereafter. Lift rides or hot chocolate breaks in the lodge are good times to reapply. Your eyes are just as sensitive to sun damage as your skin; protect them with sunglasses or ski goggles that have 99–100% UVA/UVB protection. You can also check the UV Index for a forecast of the day’s UV intensity. Who wants a raccoon face anyway?

About the author: Julie Kunrath is an ASPH Fellow hosted by the SunWise program in the Office of Air and Radiation in DC.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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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On Being the MOST Dressed Person at the Party

sunwise_logoBy Wendy Dew

I recently returned from a week long vacation at a popular lake resort. I packed for my trip knowing that the weather at the lake would be hot and sunny. You’d think that means I took lots of bathing suits, t-shirts, and shorts, right? Wrong! I packed light long sleeve shirts and pants, a hat and lots of sunscreen. I burn easily and let’s face it – I’m not a hot weather “sun-bunny” kind of person.

During my vacation, I saw boats out on the water, visited different marinas on the lake and watched all kinds of people having fun in the sun. One time, I was walking on the floating dock with hundreds of people around me and I noticed that everyone was staring at me. I quickly realized that I was the MOST dressed person at the “party!”

I was wearing light weight long sleeve shirt and pants and had a hat on my head. Everyone else was wearing a swimsuit and little else. I also noticed that almost everyone (not me!) either had a really bad sun burn or a very deep tan. Even the really young kids! I thought to myself, “don’t they know about skin cancer or sun protection?”

Most people are not aware that skin cancer, while largely preventable, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one million cases are reported annually. By following some simple steps, you can still enjoy your time in the sun and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends these action steps to help you and your family be “SunWise.”

  • Do Not Burn – Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, especially for children.
  • Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds – UV light from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling.
  • Generously Apply Sunscreen – about one ounce to cover all exposed skin 20 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and provide protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear Protective Clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Seek shade when possible and remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow and Sand – water, snow and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Check the UV Index-the UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure. The UV Index forecast is issued daily by the National Weather Service and EPA. Visit www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html.
  • Get Vitamin D safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements and foods fortified with Vitamin D. Don’t seek the sun.

Checkout the SunWise website if you want a little more information about the recommendations above. So I admit I may have looked a bit “dorky” at the marina…but I’m ok with that because I have my reasons. I will look younger even as I get older because I did not let myself burn or tan throughout my youth. I will be much less likely to get skin cancer and I will not suffer through any painful sunburns during my summer vacations.

Summer is almost over and the seasons are starting to change but sun protection is something you can do to protect your skin all year long. For all you kids and teens out there, do yourself a favor and either cover up or pour the sunscreen on! No need to look like a dork like me if you put on your sunscreen!

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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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Got a Smartphone? EPA Has Launched an App to Keep You Safe in the Sun

Growing up outside of Baltimore in the late 70s, I spent the summers at the pool, cutting lawns in the neighborhood without a shirt, and riding my bike for hours. I’m paying for it now. I’ve had seven basal cell carcinomas (the least dangerous skin cancer) removed in the past five years, including three from my forehead. I’ll be going to a dermatologist twice a year for the rest of my life. You know that young men like to compare scars – well, add my childhood scars to my skin cancer scars, and I can top anyone.

After spending many years working on waste reduction issues, I came over to a part of EPA that works on healing the ozone layer and teaching kids how to be SunWise. The ozone layer acts as a kind of sunscreen for the Earth, so while it’s healing, we want to prevent skin cancer by teaching kids, their teachers and parents how to be safe in the sun.

We’ve been using the UV Index for years to forecast the strength of the sun’s UV rays—the higher the Index, the more important it is to be sun safe. Just this year, we developed a UV Index widget and put the Index on Facebook. So, you can check your friends’ status and the sun’s, and plan for a SunWise day.

Now we’re making it even easier for you to check the UV Index when you’re on the go with EPA’s smartphone applications. Of course, we’re hoping people download these free applications on their mobile phones.

I still enjoy the outdoor activities I did as a kid – especially biking – and am proud of my small collection of really nice Italian bikes. What has changed is that I am now SunWise and take better care of my skin. A lot of people are SunWise nowadays, too – including my kids. With tools like the smartphone applications, we are making it easier for folks to be smart in the sun.

About the author: Robert Burchard is a program analyst for EPA’s Stratospheric Protection Division in the Office of Air and Radiation. Robert is known for wearing his bike jerseys around the office and for speeding full-force ahead with anything technology-related, particularly when it’s about sun safety.

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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Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Qué hace para prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y protegerse de la exposición excesiva al sol?

¿Sabía que a pesar de que es fácil de prevenir, hay más casos de cáncer de piel cada año en comparación a los casos de cáncer del seno, cólon pulmones, y próstata? ¿O que el cáncer de la piel está afectando a gente cada vez más joven? Eso se traduce a más de un millón de estadounidenses con cáncer cada año. Todo los años se designa el viernes antes del Día de Recordación por los Caídos como el “Día para no Freírse” (Día para Protegerse del Sol”) —como un recordatorio para ser prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y proteger su piel cuando disfrute del tiempo al aire libre.

¿Qué hace para prudente con el sol (Sunwise) y protegerse de la exposición excesiva al sol?

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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