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Here’s Why You Should: Skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States, is usually caused by damage to skin cells by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light. Do what you can year-round to avoid the sun for long periods, says Joshua L. Fox, M.D., a New York City dermatologist. “There’s no such thing as a healthy tan.”
Risk Reducers: Start a sunscreen habit. Apply sunscreen of SPF 15 or more on your face and the back of your hands every morning, even on cloudy days. (Up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate cloud cover.) Reapply frequently if you’re swimming or perspiring.
Cover up. The National Cancer Institute advises limiting your time outdoors when the amount of solar UV radiation is greatest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you must be outside, sit in the shade. Wear long-sleeved clothing if you can, a hat with a brim, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
THE REAL RISK
Researchers expect an increase in skin cancer cases as the ozone layer thins. A 1999 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reports that from 1973 to 1994, rates of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, increased 120.5 percent. It’s important to make sure children are protected; just one bad sunburn before age 16 increases the risk of melanoma three to five times.