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The importance of sunscreen in preventing skin cancer

For those of us who live in climes with no shortage of sunny days, spending hours outdoors is a such given that we may forget - especially in the bliss of summer vacation - that it can be too much of a good thing. But Stanford's dermatologists, about to host their annual free skin cancer screening on June 2, are quick with facts and figures about the risks of too much unprotected time in the sun.

In the latest issue of Inside Stanford Medicine and in the video above, we tell the story of Kelly Bathgate - a classic example of what doctors are seeing in rising numbers: a young woman with melanoma. In the last 30 years, the rate of melanoma in women under age 40 has risen 150 percent. 

So how can these cancers be prevented? Since sun exposure remains the single most predictive risk factor for development of skin cancer, protective steps aren't extreme. As Stanford physician Sumaira Aasi, MD, told me:

We're not asking people to get on a treadmill or not eat their favorite foods. We're just recommending that people treat sunscreen like brushing their teeth or using deodorant don't leave the house without it no matter what the weather is like.

Previously: Study shows link between indoor tanning and common skin cancer, Working to prevent melanoma, New law: No more tanning beds for California teens and Intense, rapid sun tanning may increase skin cancer risk

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