Today Is “Don’t Fry Day”

As the last weekday before the Memorial Day holiday, The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention dubbed today “Don’t Fry Day” to raise awareness for sun safety and encourage everyone to protect their skin.

It’s a fitting holiday, since an estimated 5.6 million Americans will confront skin cancer in 2017. Unfortunately, the “all natural” movement puts millions more at risk by advocating against common sunscreens.

While the chemophobic Environmental Working Group (EWG) frequently spouts scientifically unsupported nonsense, its 11th Annual Sunscreen Guide took things a step farther by claiming “There’s no proof that sunscreens prevent most skin cancer.” But the Food and Drug Administration and American Academy of Dermatology beg to differ.

Although the EWG sunscreen guide accurately identifies that “sunburns, particularly those occurring in childhood, also increase a person’s risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer,” the group seems unable to comprehend the logical conclusion of their statement. If sunburns increase the risk of melanoma, and sunscreens prevent sunburns…are we missing something here?

The sunscreen-phobic group points out that melanoma rates have tripled over the past three decades, despite our greater awareness of the dangers of UV rays, and the presence of “a multi-billion dollar sunscreen industry.” (We sense a hint of bias.)

Let’s explore the fundamentals of cancer development for a moment.

Cancer often occurs when the DNA in your body’s cells accumulate too much damage to function normally. Our cells have numerous fail-safes to catch damage (think autocorrect for DNA), but as we age those mechanisms aren’t quite as efficient.

When your skin cells are exposed to UV radiation, it could take decades before enough damage accumulates to override your body’s natural correcting mechanisms. And even then, it takes time for a single mutant cell to divide enough to become recognizable as cancer. This means cancer doesn’t happen overnight.

Today’s melanoma rates are the product of decades of sun damage. It explains why Baby Boomers – the generation that spent the 1970’s sunbathing under thick layers of baby oil and coconut oil – comprise the largest portion of new melanoma cases: 25 percent.

Wearing sunscreen today won’t fix the damage caused a decade ago. But with a sufficiently high SPF, proper application and maintained reapplication, it will prevent future damage. That’s why the EWG’s claim isn’t just false; it’s wildly irresponsible and leaves consumers at risk of getting burned.

This summer, hang advice from chemophobic activists out to dry. But most importantly, lather up, grab a hat, and enjoy your fun in the sun.