By Anna C. Christensen, UA Cancer Center
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world, and is caused mainly by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. In Arizona, skin cancer awareness programs ramp up with the escalating temperatures from spring to summer. By the time the mid-summer monsoons hit, these messages start to fall off our radar. When the weather once again is hospitable as fall rolls around, many of us are back to enjoying the outdoors without adequate sun protection. Reducing our risk of skin cancer, however, is a year-round activity.
Lisa Quale, health educator at the University of Arizona Cancer Center’s Skin Cancer Institute, works with the community to help people to learn the best ways to enjoy the sun’s benefits while protecting themselves from cancer-causing UV radiation. Each Tuesday in August, the UA Cancer Center will present “Bear Down. Beat Cancer. Top 5 Strategies for Reducing Skin Cancer Risk.” Employing these strategies in combination will give us the best protection of all.
Top Five Strategy No. 2: Cover Up (with long sleeves, pants, sunglasses and a hat)
The UA Skin Cancer Institute recommends protecting your skin with long-sleeved shirts and pants, in dark colors, thick fabrics and tight weaves. A hat with at least a three-inch brim can cover or shade your head, face, ears and neck. For the most UV protection, look for fabrics with the following traits:
- Tight weaves: Fabrics like denim and flannel have tight weaves. Hold your clothing up to the light – if you can see through it, UV rays from the sun can pass through as well.
- Synthetic or semi-synthetic fabrics: Fibers like polyester, spandex, rayon and nylon have elastic threads that pull the fibers tightly together.
- Thickness: Thick or dense fabrics, like denim or corduroy, let in less sunlight than lightweight fabrics.
- Dark colors: Darker colors absorb more UV rays than lighter colors.
- UPF clothing: UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, is a rating system used for fabrics that are protective against UV rays.
While avoiding the sun is the best strategy, if you have to be outside, you still can find ways to cover up.
“It’s probably best to invest in a shirt or some clothing that has the ultraviolet protection built into the fabric – UPF of 30 or higher,” Quale recommends. “You don’t need a closet full of UPF clothing, you just need that one long-sleeve, high-collar shirt to wear when you know you’re going to be out for a long period of time.”
Large-frame sunglasses labeled for UV protection block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays and can protect the delicate skin around your eyes. The UA Skin Cancer Institute also recommends UV-protective tint on your car’s side and rear windows. In the United States, where the left side of a driver’s body has more exposure to sunlight, skin cancers are more likely on the left side of the body.
Your skin health is important regardless of the season. Check out last week’s tip for reducing your skin cancer risk here. Stay tuned throughout August for more weekly strategies on reducing your skin cancer risk every day of the year. To request an appointment with a dermatologist, please call the UA Cancer Center at 520-694-2873. You can find more information on the UA Cancer Center’s website.