Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Following are local events:

Thursday: Sixth annual “I Will Reflect” Fashion Show and Cocktail Party, 7-10 p.m. at the Spa at Charleston Place. Suggested donation $20. Proceeds benefit research. RSVP at SpaIntern@CharlestonPlace.com.

May 21: Free skin-cancer screening, 5-7 p.m. at the Trident Medical Center Burn Center. Call 797-3463 for an appointment. Walk-ins are welcome, but those with appointments will be seen first.

May 21: Free skin-cancer screening, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Roper St. Francis Cancer Center on the West Ashley campus of Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, 2085 Henry Tecklenberg Drive. Appointments are required by calling 402-CARE.

May 24: Roper St. Francis Cancer Care is declaring the Friday before Memorial Day “Don't Fry Day” to encourage sun safety just as summer kicks into gear. Don't Fry Day is the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention's annual effort to bring local attention to sun safety awareness. See skincancerprevention.org/programs/dont-fry-day.

May is the month, especially in Charleston, to remind everyone to practice sun safety for the protection of your precious skin and eyes.

The month is national Skin Cancer Awareness Month, but the message to cover up, seek shade and wear quality sunscreen and sunglasses along with wide-brimmed hats is even more important in the Lowcountry.

The nonprofit Vision Council, which represents the optical industry, ranked Charleston the 12th city with the “highest ultraviolet concentration” in 2012, according to a report to be released Wednesday.

Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Weather Service, the Vision Council noted that Charleston had 198 days of “extreme and very high risk” ultraviolet exposure. That's only a few days less than sun-soaked Houston (203), Los Angeles (202), Phoenix (202) and Albuquerque (201).

Dermatologists increasingly acknowledge that a sunny day outside is hard to resist, but that people can enjoy the outdoors and take precautions.

“It's impossible to resist the lure of the Lowcountry outdoors, but starting summer with a severe sunburn ruins your experience and could cause lasting damage,” says Steve Akman, medical director of the Roper St. Francis Cancer Care.

Roper is declaring May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day, as “Don't Fry Day” after the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention's annual effort to bring local attention to sun safety awareness

“It takes multiple steps to protect your skin, including sunscreen, clothing, shade and smarts. So remember Don't Fry Day and avoid being added to the list of those who wish they'd been more careful.”

So far, Charleston's usually sunny and warm early spring has been cloudy and cool. Has that meant fewer sunburns? And does it set the stage for a rash of sunburns in May?

No to both questions, says Dr. Marguerite Germain of Germain Dermatology.

“I don't think the cool spring has set the stage for more sunburns in May,” Germain says. “In fact, in my practice, I have seen more sunburns than usual this spring because people do not realize that they can get burned even on a cloudy day. Because of the clouds, they forget to wear sunblock, and after being out all day, when their skin begins to hurt and blister, they realize that they got too much sun.”

Germain adds, “We need to get the word out that sun protection is important throughout the entire year so it becomes an everyday habit.”