Each year, there are more cases of skin cancer in the United States than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. Many of these cases could be prevented by protecting the skin properly from the sun's rays.
"This year alone, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 73,870 new cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer in the U.S.," the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention stated on their website. Skin cancer kills one American every hour, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society.
To encourage sun safety as a means to prevent skin cancer, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention declares the Friday before Memorial Day each year as "Don't Fry Day."
The national observance came about in the summer of 2008 by dermatologist and President of the nonprofit organization Sun Safety for Kids Jeff Ashley.
"What [the council] had up to that point was a day, if not a month, dedicated towards what is called secondary prevention," Ashley said.
Secondary prevention means if a person has cancer, he/she tries to catch it early and get rid of the cancer while it is still curable.
"For example, [the council] had Melanoma Monday [the first Monday in May to raise awareness about melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer] for that reason," Ashley said.
"However, there was nothing about primary prevention, especially since excessive sun exposure is by far in a way the most important cause of skin cancer and certainly one that can be avoided," Ashley said. "There was not anything to raise awareness about the importance of sun safety."
Though days such as Don't Fry Day continue to help raise awareness of proper sun protection, it is important to continuously take skin safety precautions when spending time out in the sun.
If spending time outdoors this Memorial Day weekend, follow the council's advice to Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap! That means when outside slip on a shirt, slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, slap on a wide-brimmed hat and wrap on sunglasses.
It is best to avoid too much exposure to direct sunlight, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., since that is when the sun's rays are the strongest. Seek shade if you will be outside during these hours.
When out in the sun, wear clothing that covers the skin as much as possible. Darker colors, such as black or dark blue, generally provide more protection than lighter colors. Also, tightly woven and dry fabrics are more protective than loosely woven clothing and wet fabric.
Some might seek some vitamin D from indoor tanning instead of being outdoors. However, according to Ashley, many dermatologists are diagnosing melanoma in young woman way beyond the number of cases they were seeing previous to the indoor tanning movement.
"Things are starting to turn around," Ashley said. "Laws are being passed to forbid tanning under age 18, and the public is slowly beginning to catch on that is not as safe as the tanning industry misled them to believe."