With winter slowly transitioning into Spring, most of us, especially our kids, are ready to shake off the cold weather blues and make the most of the long Summer days, where we can spend more time outside, enjoying ourselves in the sunny weather.

In fact, the classic images of summer includes time spent frolicking in the sun. Part of this enjoyment is wearing light and comfortable clothes like shorts and flip flops, which not only keep us cooler, but make the transition from dry land into cool water and easy one. However, researchers are beginning to caution the public that the ubiquitous summer garb, which includes baseball caps and flip flops, may not offer enough protection against the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. As a result, they may have hidden health risks for skin cancer.

Conventional wisdom informs us that most cases of skin cancer occur on parts of our body that are continually exposed to the sun. While these risks can be tempered through the use of sunscreen or protective material, certain types of clothing do not provide enough protection. These casual articles of clothing leave parts of the skin exposed and vulnerable. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the feet and the ears are two areas of the body are often overlooked when people apply sunscreen, thereby increasing the risk.

Experts recommend taking special precautions when spending time in the sun. Make sure to use sunscreen on exposed skin with an SPF of at least 15. When wearing protective clothing, choose wide-brimmed hats that protect the ears, as well as long-sleeved shirts and pants when possible, and try to avoid spending too much time outside during the peak midday hours, usually from about 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. By taking the proper precautionary measures, you can significantly lower the risk of skin cancer and melanoma for you and your family.

Skin cancer is in fact the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than one million cases (non-melanoma) diagnosed each year. Most of the cases involve the out layer of the skin (basal cell and squamous cell) in the face, ears, neck, lips and the back of the hands. They can be fast or slow growing, but generally do not spread to other parts of the body.

Melanoma is a more serious condition that affects the melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin, which gives our skin color. Melanin protects the deeper layers of the skin from suns UV rays. Melanoma is very dangerous and is responsible for most skin cancer deaths, though if it detected early enough, is almost always curable.

This summer, take the proper precautionary measure and protect your family and yourself from excessive sun exposure. If you have questions or concerns, talk to you doctor. For more information about skin cancer, visit the websites for the Skin Cancer Foundation and the National Cancer Institute.