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Slip on a shirt, slap on a hat, and slop on the sunscreen. That's one doctor's prescription for taking care of your skin in the sun.

The weekend forecast is near perfect, which means many families will be getting outside and soaking up the sun. But Dr. Donna Turner, provincial director of population oncology at CancerCare Manitoba, says getting a little less sun can be beneficial to our skin's health.

Melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, can be caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays that attack the body's DNA. This leads to out-of-control cell growth. Your skin can be exposed to UV rays through the sun and on a tanning bed.

To know how much UV you are being exposed to, forecasts often have a 'UV index', which is a scale of 1-10.

"When the UV index is three or higher, we ask people to protect their skin as much as possible," Dr. Turner said. That means using sunscreen and spending less time in the sun as the UV index rises.

She also says that it's pretty easy to figure out whether you have sustained sun damage to your skin.

"The main indicator that any damage has happened is when your skin changes colour," Dr. Turner explained, saying that even a tan is an indication of damage to your skin.

Protecting yourself from the sun is priority number one when you are outside. Dr. Turner says you should always be looking for shade when you are outside, and staying in between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. when the UV rays are at their worst.

The motto Dr. Turner uses for sun protection is "slip, slap, slop."

"Slip on your shirt and sunglasses, slap on your hat, and slop on the sunscreen," she said.

It is recommended that the shirt be something long-sleeve that covers more skin and a wide-brimmed hat that will protect your ears. For sunscreen, Dr. Turner says you should be using products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

She also said it's important for people to remember that UV rays can continue to affect you on cloudy days and when you are swimming. She says the false sense of feeling cool (from the water or shade) can trick your body. But you should continue to wear sunscreen, along with protecting your skin in every other way.

For those camping, Dr. Turner recommends a mid-day hike in the forest, so you're out of the sun but still enjoying the weather.

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