Think You're Sun Smart? You May be Surprised

A new poll finds many of us get failing grades when it comes to protecting ourselves against skin cancer

Mark your calendars: it’s Melanoma Monday! Not quite as fun as sloppy Joe Tuesdays in the cafeteria, but definitely much more pertinent to your health -- and much better for you (in terms of prevention, that is). To mark the occasion, the American Academy of Dermatology surveyed 7,000 people around the country to find out which cities have the most sun smarts in protecting themselves against skin cancer. Think you know your stuff? Well, let’s find out. It’s time for a pop quiz.

True or false: Some types of ultraviolet (UV) rays are safe for your skin.

The answer: false. Believe it or not, only 35 percent answered this correctly. With such a poor score, I can’t help but wonder if they polled the tanorexic cast of the Jersey Shore and all of their family and friends.

So who are the sly foxes that scored the best on the AAD’s Suntelligence test? The people of Hartford, Salt Lake City and Denver came in first, second and third, respectively. In last place: Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh, where I might mention, 81% of respondents said they believe people look healthier with a tan. Snooki, I know where you can find your next boyfriend!

All joking aside, I feel it’s my duty as a pale and pasty citizen to point out that tans are, by definition, a type of skin damage that is linked to wrinkles, premature aging and skin cancer. And lest you think skin cancer is no big thing, you should know that it’s not always as easy as removing a mole. Almost 12,000 people in the U.S. die from skin cancer every year. If detected early, the five-year survival rate for the most deadly type of skin cancers known as melanomas ranges from 16 percent to 65 percent. Still, according to the study, the majority of us have never been screened, even though the AAD offers free skin cancer screenings nationwide.

Though it’s important to wear sunscreen year-round, most of us spend more time outdoors in the spring and summer months. So it’s especially crucial to make sure your bathroom closet is well-stocked with an SPF of 30 or higher—and that you apply it daily (even when it’s cloudy). Experts recommend using a shot glass worth of sunscreen to cover your entire body. And if you’re spending all day at the beach or outdoors, don’t forget to reapply every few hours.

If you can’t help but pine for that golden glow, this is probably one of the only situations where fake is actually better than the real thing (Hear that, Heidi?). Try out some of these self-tanners recommended by iVillage’s beauty editor. And if you want to find out how your sun smarts stack up against, take the AAD’s Rays Your Grade quiz. Let us know how you did.

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