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Get the skinny on sunscreen and protect yourself from melanoma

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If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the sun this summer, consider having sunscreen in your pocket or bag at all times. Shielding your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can prevent sagging, wrinkles and damage, not to mention save your life by reducing your risk for deadly diseases such as melanoma.

There are many different brands of sunscreen on the market and choosing one that’s right for you can help you enjoy your time outdoors even more. All products have a sun protection factor (SPF) that is a measure of how well it can block out harmful rays, according to the Melanoma Foundation.

However, you should be aware that sun protection does not necessarily increase with a higher SPF number. For example, if you had to choose between an expensive SPF 34 sunscreen and a cheaper SPF 15 product, you would probably be better off going with the latter.

An SPF 15 sunscreen – which is recommended by dermatologists for year-round protection for most people – absorbs about 93 percent of UV rays, only four percent less than one with SPF 34.

“All sunscreens need to be reapplied, so follow the guidelines written on the bottle,” the Melanoma Foundation advised. “Remember, expensive sunscreens are not necessarily of better quality.”

Using these products, wearing long-sleeved clothing and limiting your time in the sun can substantially decrease your risk of developing melanoma. This type of skin cancer, in which pigment cells in the skin grow uncontrollably, affects an estimated 1 in 34 people in the U.S. According to dermatologists, more than 73 percent of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.

A recent study published in the journal Neurology has found that people who have Parkinson’s disease might have a higher risk of developing this type of skin cancer.

Researchers from the National Institute of Enironmental Health Sciences reported that men with the neurodegenerative illness are twice as likely to have melanoma than men who don’t. A similar observation was made among women, though to a lesser extent.

“One possible explanation for the link between Parkinson’s and melanoma is that the two diseases may share some genetic or environmental risk factors,” said lead investigator Honglei Chen.

In the meantime, while more research is being conducted on this subject, Americans should do what they can to protect themselves from skin cancer. Talking to a skincare professional can help them learn more about sunscreen and how to choose the best product to fit their needs.