Summer is a time to fry hamburgers.
Not skin.

Summer is a time to fry hamburgers.

Not skin.

As families prepare for the season of sunshine, several national agencies have teamed up to encourage skin protection.

Today has been named “Don’t Fry Day” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Skin cancer is still the most common cancer in the U.S., and the agencies say a few changed habits can make a difference.

“If current trends continue, one in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime, and many of these skin cancers could be prevented by reducing UV exposure from the sun and indoor tanning devices,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Of particular concern is the increase we are seeing in rates of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. In the United States, melanoma is one of the most common cancers among people ages 15 to 29 years.”

In Kansas, the rate of new melanoma diagnoses was 9 percent higher than the national average from 2002-2006. Among whites — who are at the highest risk for melanoma — Kansas had the 26th highest melanoma incidence rate in the U.S. in the same time frame. About 80 people in the state die of melanoma every year, and the death rate has risen about 2 percent annually since 1975, according to the EPA and CDC.

Jana McKinney, K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences agent for McPherson County, said she was one of those statistics. She had melanoma in her shoulder and had to have a one-inch by two-inch area removed to rid her of cancer.

“It scared me, absolutely,” she said. “It got my attention. It’s that “c” word. I was thankful it could be taken off and relieved they had got it out.”

Since then, McKinney has regular checkups and encourages her family and others to protect their skin.

“Our young audience thinks they’re invincible,” she said. “They forget (to put on sunscreen) or don’t think (cancer) will happen to them. Once you get that sunburn, it just hurts, and it hurts because it fries your skin. We need to put away the baby oil and stop trying to bake in the sun, because our skin has to last us our lifetime.”

Dr. Sam Claassen of McPherson Hospital said children and teenagers should be particularly careful, since many of the dangers of sun exposure are cumulative over time.

“Fortunately, in this day and age most people are aware of the dangers of excessive sun exposure,” he said in an email. “However, periodic reminders of the above precautions are prudent.”

Paul Katzer, superintendent for the McPherson Parks Department, doesn’t have to be reminded. He developed skin cancer in the past and now wears sunscreen and a hat with a wide brim. He also encourages skin protection for his workers.

“When you look at the number of people — especially in my department — that are exposed to those conditions, later on in life they’ll pay for it,” he said. “I tell them I’ve experienced this once, and I don’t want to do it again.”

Contact Jenae Pauls at and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel