ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- The sun is essential to life. However, too much exposure to the sun can be harmful.

Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, also called UV rays, emitted from the sun can cause many skin conditions, as well as skin cancer.

Nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year in the U.S.

Skin cancer can be serious, expensive and, sometimes, deadly.

The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during Daylight Saving Time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Standard Time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors in the continental U.S.

UV rays from sunlight are the most dangerous during late spring and early summer in North America.

Overexposing our skin to the sun’s ultraviolet rays causes skin cancer and skin damage. Outdoor workers have a higher risk of skin cancer, as they can spend many hours outside.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these tips for protection from UV radiation:

• Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours, when possible.

• Wear clothing covering your arms and legs.

• Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.

• Wear sunglasses which wrap around your eyes and block both UVA and UVB rays.

• Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.

• Avoid indoor tanning.

The majority of our exposure to the sun in our lifetime occurs during childhood.

While it may be too late to worry about whether you had adequate protection when you were a kid, it is not too late to protect your kids or other young family members from being overexposed to the sun.

Periodically, check yourself for irregular moles or markings on your skin. A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer.

Not all skin cancers look the same.

For melanoma specifically, a simple way to remember the warning signs is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:

• A stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?

• B stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?

• C is for color. Is the color uneven?

• D is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?

• E is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

Protect your family and yourself from skin cancer!

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