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.