The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is calling the Friday before Memorial Day “Don’t Fry Day” hoping to motivate people to stay safe outdoors.
Janet McCabe, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said:
While we’re making progress toward restoring the Earth’s ozone layer, Americans need to take steps now for extra protection from harmful UV rays and skin cancer. Americans can stay safe under the sun and enjoy the outdoors by taking simple steps such as using sunscreen and wearing UV-blocking sunglasses.
One in five people in the U.S. will get skin cancer at some point in their life if current tendencies continue, explained CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.
By reducing UV exposure from the sun and indoor tanning devices, several of these cancers could be prevented.
What is especially alarming is the rise in the rates of melanoma – a potentially fatal type of skin cancer. Among Americans between the ages 15 and 29, melanoma is one of the most common cancers.
FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., said:
Spending time in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer. Everyone can get sunburned and suffer harmful effects of exposure to UV radiation from time spent outdoors. Consumers can protect themselves by choosing a sunscreen that is right for them, wearing protective clothing and limiting time in the sun.
The FDA has issued new labeling rules for sunscreens
The FDA has issued new labeling regulations for sunscreen products to help people select items that effectively lower the health risks associated with UV overexposure.
A recent report, however, showed that only 25% of sunscreens offer strong and broad UV protection.
These new rules include:
- Sunscreens can be labeled “Broad Spectrum” when they are shown to protect against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Both UVB and UVA radiation can be harmful.
- Sunscreens that measure up to the standards for being labeled “Broad Spectrum” and have a SPF (Sunscreen Protection Factor) of 15 or greater may claim that they lower skin cancer risk and early skin aging when used as instructed with other sun protection measures.
- Any product that is not labeled “Broad Spectrum”, or that has an SPF lower than 15, needs to come with a warning that says it has not been proven to protect against skin cancer or early skin aging.
- New water resistance claims on the front label must specify whether the product is still effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating.
How else can you stay safe outdoors?
Other than using Broad Spectrum sunscreen, there are a few other ways that you can enjoy the outdoors safely this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer.
Some tips include:
- Try to find shade. When the sun’s rays are the strongest, stay in the shade.
- Avoid sunburns, deliberate tanning, and use of indoor tanning. Be extra careful around reflective surfaces, such as water and sand.
- Wear clothes that can protect you from the sun, such as a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Check the UV Index provided by the EPA and the National Weather Service. They give an hourly forecast of UV radiation to help prevent overexposure to the sun.
- Through the innovative environmental treaty known as the Montreal Protocol, countries across the world have made steady improvement toward restoring the Earth’s protective ozone layer.
The U.S. government as well as 196 other countries have signed the Protocol, which has been successfully working to phase out ozone-depleting substances. According to scientists’ predictions, the ozone layer will recover later this century.
The states with the highest death rates due to melanoma, according to the CDC, include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia.
Shockingly, a report from earlier this year demonstrated that 1 in 4 melanoma survivors still does not wear sunscreen.