Interior Secretary Donald Hodel is right on the mark with his suggestion to use hats, sunglasses and sunscreen lotion to protect against solar ultraviolet radiation. It is downright irresponsible for David Doniger, a lawyer for the National Resources Defense Council, to ridicule the idea {May 29}. Of course, these items cost money. So do seat belts for automobiles.

More than 10,000 Americans die annually of various kinds of skin cancer. These deaths need not happen if protection is used. Skin cancers are increasing more rapidly than any other kind of cancer. According to medical statistics, malignant melanoma cases have risen by nearly 800 percent in the past 50 years. The most likely cause: changes in life style and careless exposure to the sun.

Contrary to newspaper hype, there is no evidence for a global decrease in total ozone. Therefore, one should not blame the chlorofluorocarbon chemicals released into the atmosphere for the observed cancer epidemic. Nor is it certain that continued use of CFCs will have much of an impact on atmospheric ozone in the next 50 years or so. The theory is not yet reliable; a different result has been predicted every year for the past 10 years, as our understanding of the atmospheric chemistry has improved. The theory cannot explain the present ozone observations; it did not predict nor can it yet account for the "ozone hole," the annual, temporary decrease observed in the Antarctic region.

The responsible position for the U.S. government is to await the outcome of crucial experiments to be conducted in the Antarctic late this year. Regardless of their outcome, they will force a major revision of the theory of how CFCs affect ozone. Precipitous action to force a phase-out of these most useful chemicals could put a heavy burden on American families that own 100 million refrigerators, 100 million air conditioners and 100 million cars with air conditioners -- all of which use CFCs.

Regulation of dangerous substances is the proper responsibility of government. But a weighing of environmental risks and regulatory costs suggests that a short delay to gain better scientific understanding might lower the cost greatly, without increasing risk significantly. S. FRED SINGER Fairfax The writer developed the method for worldwide ozone observation from satellites and authored the theory that human production of methane affects stratospheric ozone.