“Don’t go out in the sun until you put on suntan lotion.” Most of us have heard this from the time we were small children.

Yet, the high incidence of skin cancer is a direct result of the failure of many to abide this warning.

More than 76,000 Americans are annually diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, and more than 12,000 die annually. In addition, a recent study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that those who have a skin cancer history are also at higher risk of developing breast and lung cancers.

What can you do to prevent skin cancer? Here are some things to consider:

— Limit sun exposure in general, but particularly between the hours of 11am and 3pm. Skin damage occurs over time. Studies show that children often get 80% of their lifetime skin exposure by the age of 18.

— Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. In addition, sunscreen needs to be reapplied every few hours, including to those easily overlooked areas like the top of hands, feet, ears and scalp.

— Cover up with clothes and wide-brimmed hats. This is particularly important during the middle of the day, when the sun’s rays are most dangerous.

— Avoid tanning beds. Studies have shown that the risk of skin cancer increases by more than 50% for those who use tanning beds once or more a month.

— Get annual screenings. Annual checkups with a dermatologist are the best tool for early detection, particularly for those with a family history.

– John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and home companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: jdmiller@homecarepartners.biz ; or online at: www.homecarepartnersma.com