SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – To help reduce rising rates of skin cancer from overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day.”

The organization is encouraging sun safety awareness and reminding everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors.

Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.

The two main causes of skin cancer are the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and the use of UV tanning beds.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says that an estimated 197,7000 cases of melanoma, a form of skin cancer, will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Some factors that may increase the risk of melanoma include a history of severe blistering sunburns and excessive UV light exposure.

In the past decade, the number of new invasive melanoma cases diagnosed every year has increased by 31%. The foundation estimates that 7,650 people will die of melanoma this year.

According to the Mayo Clinic, people with fair skin have less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blonde or red hair, light-colored eyes, and freckle or sunburn easily, you’re more likely to develop melanoma.

However, anybody can develop skin cancer.

Dr. Rebecca Campen, of Campen Dermatology and author of The Comprehensive Guide to Skin Care: From Acne to Wrinkles. What to Do [and Not Do] to Stay Healthy and Look Your Best.

“Some of the melanomas that darker-skinned people develop can be even more aggressive,” said Dr. Rebecca Campen of Campen Dermatology in Savannah. “A lot of times, it will not be noticed as quickly because their skin is darker.”

She reiterated: “Everybody needs to protect from the sun.”

Those living in Georgia are also at a higher risk of developing skin cancer.

“Up until COVID, I was seeing patients in Boston as well as here. I would see skin cancers probably 10 times as often here in the South as I did in the Northeast,” Campen explained.

“Part of that is the fact that in the Northeast, you have just partial sun during the year, the summer months,” she continued. “Here, we have year-round sun, so you really have to be careful because of the cumulative sun exposure that really increases your risk of skin cancer.”

Staying healthy in general, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and protecting the surface of your skin by wearing sunscreen of at least SPF 30 are essential, even when it comes to getting vitamin D.

“The advice from the American Academy of Dermatology, which we dermatologists belong to, is to take vitamin D if you’re deficient in it and protect from the sun with sunscreen,” Campen said. “That’s the official recommendation. Don’t get out in the sun to get your vitamin D, take a vitamin D supplement if you need to.”

Concerning sunscreen for beachgoers, golfers and everyone else who will be enjoying the outdoors, Campen recommends applying SPF 45 or 50.

“You also want to protect your eyes by wearing dark glasses when you’re outside in the sun,” she said. “The sun can increase your risk of getting cataracts.”

Campen said to consider protective clothing, too.

“Nowadays, we have the protective clothing with a tighter knit that can give you an SPF of 50 or 60,” she added.

And don’t forget those often-missed areas when applying sunscreen.

“We see so many skin cancers on men’s ears,” Campen said. “They’re out playing golf and they forget to put sunscreen there.

“Also, remember to put sunscreen on your feet. There are areas where you don’t think about putting sunscreen but it’s very important to apply everywhere the sun can get you.”

People who have years of sun damage, perhaps due to their jobs, can make changes that will reduce the chances of skin cancer. But with years of sun damage already, dermatologists say there is always a chance of getting skin cancer later on in life.

“What’s done is done,” Campen said. “Now, if they are getting more sun, they’re really compounding what they had in the past. It’s very important if they have a history of sun exposure to start using sunscreen.”

For those wanting to have a sun-kissed tanned look this summer, Campen recommended tanning creams.

“Those are OK to use,” she said, adding, “even if you wear SPF 30, you’re going to get a little bit of the sun.”

For more information about Campen Dermatology and skin care recommendations, visit this link.