A common concern for many people, especially parents with children, is how to prevent skin cancer. Prevention begins with limiting the amount of ultraviolet (UV) light that your skin is exposed to. This includes the use of UV protective clothing, sunscreen, hats and sunglasses.
UV protective clothing is made of a special fabric that is designed to block UV rays from reaching the skin. It is available in swim wear, trousers, shirts, dresses and hats. Some stores even carry accessories such as bandannas, scarves, gloves, wraps and umbrellas, all of which are capable of blocking UV rays – an excellent way to look great in the sun! Clothing and accessories come in all sizes from infant to adults.
Just like sunscreen, sun protective clothing is rated according to the amount of protection it offers. Unlike sunscreen, however, the rating includes both UVA and UVB. The rating, referred to as Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UVF, tells you how much radiation can pass through the fabric. A shirt labelled with a UVF of 40 allows 1/40th of UV radiation to pass to the skin and blocks the remaining 39/40ths. This equates to 97.5% of the sun’s harmful rays being blocked.
UV protective clothing has several advantages. It is put on like regular clothing, making it a boon for parents of children who refuse to stay still for sunscreen application. It is cleaner. Unlike sunscreen, which comes in bottles and may spill in your suitcase, clothing can be taken on trips without being worried about what your suitcase will look like when you arrive at your destination.
You don’t have to be concerned about whether you used enough or try to remember to reapply every few hours to maintain effectiveness. Once you put the sun protection on, it’s on until you decide to remove it. Protective clothing is even friendly to the environment. When used properly, a family of four on a one week summer vacation will (or should) go through one to two standard four ounce bottles of sunscreen per day.
While UV protective clothing has many advantages, it is not the be all and end all of how to prevent skin cancer as it does not provide absolute protection from the sun. Sunscreen should be used on any exposed areas and reapplied every two hours, more often if you are in the water or sweating a lot. Sunglasses that offer UV protection or a wide-brimmed hat should be worn to protect the eyes.
Even when using sun protection, it is important to limit time spent in the sun. This is especially true between the hours of ten and four, when UV rays are at their most intense. Those prone to getting sunburned easily should use caution. These include infants and children, individuals with fair skin and light eyes, and individuals taking medications which increase photo-sensitivity.
When it comes to how to prevent skin cancer, the key is to use multiple methods of sun protection. While there may be other factors beyond sun protection that play a role in calculating your skin cancer risk, every step you take will ultimately lower your risk.