Sunlight makes our plants grow strong, but it may not be so great for the gardener. Too much sun increases the risk of skin cancers such as melanoma, which are on the rise. And sunscreens aren't a cure-all, say researchers. "No product is totally protective of the skin," says Frank Gasparro, Ph.D., a research professor of dermatology at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University.
"Your first line of defense should be avoiding direct exposure to the sun. Don't depend on sunscreens alone," agrees research expert Marianne Berwick, Ph.D., of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
People with higher risk of skin cancers include those with light skin or eye color; freckles or moles; skin cancer in the family; or a tendency to burn instead of tan. If you're in any of those groups, take special care to avoid unprotected sun exposure. "I used to garden long hours in the sun. But after two bouts with melanoma, I cover up whenever I go out," says NHGC Member Kathy Childers of St. Paul, Minnesota. "And I make sure that my kids are protected, too."