1. The secret to avoiding skin cancer

    I’m sure you’ve heard it said about a million times by now: The best way to avoid skin cancer is to stay out of the sun -- and don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen when you do dare to step outside.

    But no matter how many times you hear it, it’s still not true.

    Simply put, you don’t have to live like a vampire to avoid the deadliest form of skin cancer. In fact, the latest research shows that the best way to slash your melanoma risk has nothing to do with the sun at all.

    It’s a simple vitamin -- and you might want to go check the label of your multi right now.

    If the form of vitamin A used in yours is retinol, you’re golden -- because a new study finds that people who get this form of A have a 60 percent lower risk of melanoma. And those who got the most A of all -- 1,200 mcg a day -- were 74 percent less likely to suffer melanoma, according to the study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

    The "catch" here is that vitamin A from food -- like liver (calf or chicken), kale, spinach or carrots -- didn’t make a bit of difference. The vitamin A precursors such as beta-carotene and lycopene used in many multivitamins didn’t make the cut either.

    Only the retinol form of A, and only from supplements -- or what the drug industry refers to as "the ‘s’ word" -- did the trick.

    The new study might fly in the face of what the mainstream has been saying about lowering your melanoma risk, but the research has shown for years now that the sun isn’t the real cause of most of these cancers.

    And one of the biggest risk factors of all might be completely out of your control: genetics.

    In other words, blame your ancestors -- not the sun. And if you have a history of the disease in your family, you might want to make an A supplement your top priority.

    Just don’t overdo it, since it’s possible to get too much of a good thing-- and too much vitamin A can cause liver damage, hair loss, and skin conditions.

    The level used in the study (1,200 mcg a day) is more than what’s recommended by federal guidelines, but perfectly safe for most people.

  2. Kids skip sunscreen

    It's hard to think of sunburn when you're battling sub-zero February temperatures every day -- but summer will be here soon enough.

    And when it arrives, you can bet that two things will happen: You'll hear a lot of mainstream noise about the supposed importance of wearing sunblock... and kids will get sunburned anyway.

    Now, that same mainstream is in a tizzy over a small survey that shows kids aren't interested in wearing sunscreen -- and that as they grow up, they simply stop putting it on.

    Take that, mom!

    The survey of 360 kids found that half of them used the stuff regularly when they were in fifth grade -- and half of them got sunburned at least once during the summer.

    Three years later, the number of kids using sunscreen fell dramatically: By the time the kids reached eighth grade, only 25 percent of them reported using sunscreen regularly -- despite reporting even more time out in the sun.

    More time in the sun, less sunscreen -- the mainstream coverage of this ends pretty much there. And naturally, they're all screaming for these kids to put on their sunscreen.

    But here's the "rest of the story" -- the part you couldn't hear over those screams: In eighth grade, the number of kids reporting at least one sunburn didn't change. It was still 50 percent.

    Maybe sunscreen isn't all it's cracked up to be after all.

    And it's not just that these chemical goos don't work nearly as well as their backers claim. In fact, many of them are actually far more dangerous than a summer full of sunburns.

    Common sunscreens contain well-known hormone-disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone. Until recently, many sunscreens -- including some of the best-selling brands -- contained a form of vitamin A that could actually speed the growth of skin tumors.

    In other words, the very chemicals that were supposed to protect people from sunburn and, eventually, skin cancers can actually cause the disease and speed its progression.

    That's why the best defense against sunburn isn't a layer of dangerous chemicals. It's common sense: Get some sun at every age, because it's the best (and cheapest) way to get your vitamin D.

    And when you've had enough, cover up -- or at least seek shade or head inside before you get burned.

    Some kids will of course get burned anyway. So be it -- at least they're outside, where they belong, and not parked on the sofa.

  3. Step into the sun

    Despite what you've heard, the only protection from the sun your skin really needs is a little common sense.
  4. Slash your diabetes risk with this simple vitamin

    It's so easy it seems unreal: A key weapon in the fight against diabetes might be hovering right outside your window, right now. It's the sun -- the primary source of vitamin D, and a new study shows how this pancreas-boosting super nutrient can help stop the disease before it starts.

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