As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, the unofficial start to summer is upon us and the American Cancer Society along with the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention is designating this Friday as "Don't Fry Day" to encourage sun safety.

The American Cancer Society has dubbed this Friday as 'No Fry Day' and is encouraging people to take steps to prevent sunburn. (George Doyle, ThinkStock)

Experts in the field are urging people to protect their skin from harmful UV rays by using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, wearing clothing that limits the amount of sun exposure including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect the eyes and the skin around them.

For the most part, skin cancer is preventable and yet, it is the most common type of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases are expected to be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society. That is more than breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers combined. While melanoma accounts for less than two percent of all skin cancer cases, it is the most deadly form, with 73,870 cases and more than 9,900 deaths expected in this country in 2015. In New Jersey, about 2,520 cases of melanoma are expected to be diagnosed this year and more than 240 deaths are expected.

"One of the things we know about skin cancer is that it is very important for the public to be aware of the potential to develop a skin cancer because awareness of the dangers of the sun is extremely important when it comes to our prevention techniques," said Dr. Arnold Baskies, chief science officer, National Board of Directors, American Cancer Society. "If people practice sun safe behavior, the chance of developing a sun-related skin cancer go down significantly. Even one bad sunburn increases the risk of developing melanoma tremendously, so it is very important to use sunscreen and to avoid the midday sun as much as possible."

The good news is there is an easy way to reduce the risk of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society is reminding people to "Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap," in other words: slip on a shirt; slop on broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher; slap on a hat and wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them from ultraviolet light.

In New Jersey, the "Choose Your Cover" program brings free skin cancer screenings, complimentary sunscreen and skin safety information directly to the at-risk population of people who spend extended time in the sun; at the beach, ball park and other outdoor venues.  Since it began nearly a decade ago, almost 10,000 people have been screened and many cases of skin cancer have been detected. The program now encompasses outdoor venues in every county in the state.

It is important to be able to know what to look for and to be able to identify skin cancer early. The American Cancer Society recommends using the ABCD rule to look for any suspicious or unusual moles:

  • Asymmetry - one half of the mole does not match the other;
  • Border - edges of the mole are irregular and appear blurred or ragged;
  • Color - color is not uniform and may have patches of pink, red, white or black;
  • Diameter - melanoma moles are usually larger than 1/4 inch, but this is not always the case

"The general rule of thumb is if you have something that looks funny and it's getting bigger and has some odd colors associated with it, get it looked at by a professional as soon as possible," Baskies said.

For more information on skin cancer detection or prevention, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit