Image courtesy of Flickr user future_crazy_cat_lady. Would you be surprised to learn that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Doctors diagnose roughly 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people each year – that’s more new cases of skin cancer each year than the combined cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers, according to

Unfortunately our favorite outdoor summertime activities can increase our risk of developing skin cancer if don’t take steps to protect our skin from exposure to the sun'sUltraviolet (UV) rays, which are the main cause of skin cancer. And since sun damage is cumulative, even a single sunburn this summer can increase your chances of developing skin cancer later in life.

Though it’s fairly easy to protect yourself from sunlight and UV rays, many people often accidentally expose themselves to sun damage each summer by making one of these five common mistakes:

  • They don’t use sunscreen correctly. Many people who apply sunscreen do so improperly and fail to protect their skin because of it. You need to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or excessive sweating. Be sure to use a broad-spectrum (i.e. protects against UVA and UVB rays), water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Always apply sunscreen anywhere that may not be covered, including on your ears (front and back!), your face, the front and back of your neck, and the tops of your feet.

  • They actively try to get a tan. While many people insist tans are attractive, in realitytanning is visible skin damage that your body is using to try to protect itself from further harm. Whether you go to the beach or use tanning beds, allowing your skin to darken and tan is very risky; many medical experts agree that tanning beds are not safe to use and will increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

  • They don’t cover up. Yes, we know it’s uncomfortably hot and humid outside during the summer. But before you put on shorts and a tank top, consider your skin’s health and look for a comfortable outfit that will offer more protection. It’s best to cover as much of your skin as you can with longer, denser clothing that has a UPF rating of 30 or higher whenever possible. You should also wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to help protect yourself.

  • They don’t take advantage of shade or evening hours.Why go outside when the weather is at it’s hottest? Staying indoors in air conditioning will help keep you cool and will help you avoid damaging UV rays altogether. But if you do go outside walk under trees, sit under a pavilion, or carry a sun umbrella to minimize your exposure to sunlight – especially between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun’s rays are their strongest.

  • They don’t monitor their skin for signs of trouble. Experts recommend using a full-length mirror to inspect every inch of skin on your body once a month and look out for skin cancer warning has a comprehensive list of areas you should check, explains how to check them, and highlights what to look for during these self-examinations. It’s also a good idea to ask a friend, spouse or family member to help during these inspections, just to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Good skin care and proper UV protection are important at any age, so whether you’re 21 or 75, be sure to use these five tips and steps to help protect your skin and reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. (And remember - these tips aren’t just for summer: the sunlight that reflects off water, snow, sand and cement at any time of year can hurt your skin, too!)