Now that spring has sprung and summer is on its way, most of us have one thing on our minds: to spend as much time outside in the fresh air as we can. This is especially true if you live in a place where the winters are long and cold, like New England.

The warmer weather means that we can shed the extra layers and get outside to work and play, not to mention spend quality time with our families. However, as much as we love spending time in the warm sun, it is important to keep in mind that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can have harmful effects, and people should be informed of the risks for skin cancer. Skin cancer is in fact the most common form of cancer in this country, affecting more than 2 million people every year. Over a lifetime, one in five people in the U.S. will contract skin cancer, though in most cases it is treatable and not life-threatening. However, melanoma is a less common form of the disease and can be very dangerous.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and parents should take the proper measures to keep their families safe from too much sun. Certain traits increase a person's risk for skin cancer, including having fair skin that burns easily; blond or red hair; having skin that freckles easily; a personal history of skin cancer or a family history of melanoma.

Regardless of your families risk factors, it is advisable for everyone who spends time to protect their skin. 

1. Use sunscreen.

Use broad spectrum protection (UV A and B) with an SPF of 15 or higher. Keep a bottle in your backpack, purse, or glove compartment. Apply it 30 minutes before going outside as well as every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.

2. Wear protective clothing.

Shielding your skin from the sun is the best way to protect areas that get the most exposure, especially the arms, face, and ears. Wear long sleeve shirts and a broad rimmed hat, and employ a swim shirt when in the water.

3. Avoid peak sun intensity times.

The sun is at its peak during midday hours, so it is recommended that we avoid outdoor activities during this time. If you venture out, wear protective clothing and sunscreen.

4. Take precautions in the car.

Even in the car, harmful UV radiation can reach us. While the levels may not be as high as being in the sun, the cumulative effect adds up over time, so remember to protect your family's skin even when you're driving.

5. Choose fruits and veggies instead of tanning.

Eating a healthy diet will give your skin a healthy glow, especially if you choose ones that are high in carotenoids like carrots and tomatoes. Some studies even suggest that they make people look better than when they get a tan.

6. Go Mediterranean.

Researchers believe that the Mediterranean diet, which includes fresh fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and fish, is not only healthy, but may protect our skin from the sun. Rates of melanoma are in fact very low in the Mediterranean region.

7. Keep newborns out of the sun.

Pediatricians recommend that babies under the age of 6 months be kept out of the sun. After 6 months, cover your child in protective clothing and apply sunscreen to exposed skin.

8. Check skin often.

Parents should check their children's skin on a regular basis (at least once a month). Look for excessive redness or irritation, as well as new moles or ones that look irregular or are growing. It's a good time to check for ticks, as well.

9. Visit your pediatrician regularly.

Have your children's skin checked at least once a year by their pediatrician.

10. Don't get burned.

It's hard to completely avoid the sun, so protect your skin and don't let it get burned. Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.

Remember that UV rays can penetrate the clouds and reflect off of snow, water, cement, and sand. If you have questions or concerns, speak with your pediatrician. For more information about skin cancer, visit the website for the National Cancer Institute and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).