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ALTHOUGH USING sunscreen during hot summer days by the pool or at the beach is a given, the sun is up there 365 days a year. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, you need protection much of that time to reduce your lifetime sun-exposure total. Their advice? Practice these sun-protection basics all year long to give your skin the best chance of long-term health.

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* Limit time in the sun, regardless of the hour or season. Avoid unnecessary sun exposure, especially during the sun's peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).


* Use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher whenever you spend time outdoors. This applies to all outdoor activities: sports, shopping, picnicking, walking or jogging, gardening, even waiting for a bus. Choose a sunscreen with ingredients that block both UVB and UVA rays and apply it liberally and evenly to all exposed skin. Be sure to cover often-missed spots: hands, feet, lips, ears, around eyes, neck, and scalp if hair is thinning. Reapply it at least every 2 hours, more often if some might have come off while you were swimming or towel drying.


* Cover up. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Tightly woven fabrics and dark colors, such as deep blue and black, or bright colors, such as orange and red, offer more protection. If you can see light through a fabric, ultraviolet (UV) rays can get through too. Wearing a hat with a 3- or 4-inch (8- or 10-cm) brim can go a long way toward preventing skin cancer in often-exposed areas such as the neck, ears, scalp, and face. Sunglasses with wraparound or large frames that block UV rays protect your eyelids and the sensitive skin around your eyes, common sites for skin cancer and sun-induced aging.


* Seek the shade. Sitting under an umbrella or a tree might protect you from the sun's direct rays, but protect yourself from sunlight bouncing off reflective surfaces too.


* Never seek a tan. There's no such thing as a healthy tan.


* Stay away from tanning parlors and artificial tanning devices. Like many people, you may be tempted to pick up some color in tanning booths, but did you know that the UV radiation indoor tanning lamps emit is many times more intense than natural sunlight? Skip the artificial tan and protect your skin.



Source: Information provided by The Skin Cancer Foundation, New York, N.Y.