All those involved in agricultural occupations are in the sun long hours throughout their life time. And it seems only right to suggest ag retailers, crop consultants and others think about how skin cancer is the most common cancer but is also preventable.

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designated the Friday before Memorial Day, May 25, “Don’t Fry Day” as a way to highlight sun safety. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Park Service (NPS) have joined together to emphasize the dangers of skin cancer.

“Skin cancer prevention and sun safety are important issues for EPA—our primary mission is to protect people’s health and the environment,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. McCarthy tied together the EPA’s efforts to protect the earth’s ozone layer and protecting the people under the ozone layer from harmful ultraviolet rays.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and the most common cancer among 20 to 30 year-olds. It's estimated that one American dies every hour from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Approximately 76,000 new cases of melanoma will occur this year.

To help protect people's health, EPA’s SunWise program addresses the entire population, but with an emphasis on protecting kids. It isn’t like agricultural workers have a choice about being in the sun, but it is obvious that taking steps to protect the skin is important and more sun protection hats and garments are becoming available.

Applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing is a must do. (This reminder comes from a guy who grew up on a farm custom baling hay all summer and now has been fighting forms of skin cancer for years.) Wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses also prevents sun damage. Also, long-sleeved shirts that breath in the heat of the summer are now being marketed.

The sunscreen recommendation stressed by the EPA is to apply a palm-full of sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to exposed skin about 15 minutes before heading outdoors. Reapply every two hours.

The EPA announcement notes that individuals with darker complexions actually have more problems with skin cancer because it does not discriminate and is more often fatal for individuals with darker skin. Overexposure to the sun also causes immune suppression and up to 90 percent of wrinkles, brown spots, leathering of the skin and sagging, it is further explained.

EPA's SunWise program offers factsheets online that have state-specific information—www.epa.gov/sunwise/statefacts.html. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the states with the highest melanoma death rates include Nebraska, Vermont, Colorado, Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Idaho.

The Web site that emphasizes family protection from the sun is http://www.epa.gov/sunwise.