Choose Your Cover: Finding Effective Sun Protection

With all of us feverishly trying to keep up with the latest fads Hollywood exports, finally there is a fashion tip that will truly enhance our lives. Recently, Tom Cruise’s former sidekick Nicole Kidman was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “I wish that I hadn’t been born with red hair and fair skin” as she is concerned about the amount sun exposure and its direct link to an increased risk for skin cancer. She should know, too. After all, she hails from Australia where skin cancer is an exploding epidemic. Subsequently, Australia is the leading the world in heightening the quality of skin cancer prevention education and proactive sun safety behavior. Truth be told, skin cancer is the world’s most common cancer. Americans are no exception to the rule either! Every hour someone in the United States dies from skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (www.AAD.org). Perhaps, Kidman’s example will encourage the propagation of a new fashion wave - sun protective clothing. Whereas, sun protective clothing (also known as ultraviolet radiation protective clothing; or “UVR”) is widely used in Australia, Europe, and South Africa, it is still relatively unknown here in the U.S. Sun protective clothing, however, is a highly effective option for individuals to protect themselves from the harmful affects of UV-rays all day, every day. If you consider that the average white 100% cotton t-shirt is equivalent to only a SPF 6 (which provides about 14% worth of sun protection), clearly there is a need for light-weight, functional, stylish, economical, clothing that also provides exceptional protection from over-exposure to the sun. On the other hand, sun protective clothing blocks out more than 97.5% of UV rays (which is an equivalent to a SPF 30 sunscreen). This is considered by the Skin Cancer Foundation to be “the best of the best” as it were when it comes to effective sun protection. If you consider that a SPF 20 sunscreen is allowing only five out of every 100 UV protons to reach your skin; it is 95% protective, than sun protective clothing is quite simply the most revolutionary new product available on the market today for those looking for a viable, yet extremely effective, way to protect themselves and their loved ones from sun damage. Dermatologist-oncologist, Sancy A. Leachman of the Tom C. Mathews Jr. Familial Melanoma Research Clinic at The Huntsman Cancer Institute (www.HuntsmanCancer.org) recommends that everyone use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 for daily, year-round use; SPF 30 is recommended if we are outdoors between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when UV rays are most intense. SPF 30 sunscreen is also highly recommended for those of us who possess multiple risk factors for skin cancer such as blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, fair or sensitive skin, many atypical moles, and even family history of skin cancer – like Nicole Kidman. Wearing sun protective clothing, coupled with proper year-round use of sunscreens, is the quite simply the best protection available, Sancy says. And her colleagues in the field of dermatological medicine agree. “Appropriate sun apparel should offer effective protection against both short term and long term photo damage [such as wrinkling, skin cancer, and even cataracts],” says Dr. J.M. Mentor, who also teaches dermatology at the Morehouse School of Medicine (www.MSM.edu). In other words, effective sun safety apparel ought to protect against both UV-B and UV-A rays, and sun protective products such as those specially manufactured by Stingray in Australia, do exactly that. Stingray is the original sun protection clothing company to specialize in UV protection swimwear and daily attire for children and adults. “As a result of listening to the needs of our many customers, we are able to deliver products that take the ‘sting out of the sun’s rays,’” says Wendy Lister, Managing Director of Stingray. “[People] are now getting the best possible UV protection.” Those living at high altitudes or near the equator, have the highest risk in for skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Glen and Liisa Tomson, both natives of South Africa, know first-hand the devastating toll sun damage can take on our health. As such, they have recently partnered up with The Cancer Crusaders Organization (www.CancerCrusaders.org) in a five-year international skin cancer prevention education campaign called “Only Skin Deep?” This program aims to actively engage parents and young adults in the fight against the world’s most common, yet preventable, cancer. “We see a great and pressing need for increased awareness and education here in the U.S.,” says Glen Tomson. “Too many times my wife and I will be at the pool, and see all these children running around sun burnt. Often, we’ll offer shade [clothing] and sunscreen to the parents so they can better protect their children.” Glen and Liisa, in addition to being entrepreneurs and experts, are parents and realize the importance of instilling the practice of sunscreen usage and the wearing of sun protective clothing at a young age so as to develop a lifelong habit of sun safety behavior. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology reports that sustaining just one severe “blistering” sunburn before age 18 increases one’s likeliness of a future skin cancer diagnosis by an estimated 60%. In other words, 80% of one’s lifetime skin damage occurs in the first 18 years of life. This is of particular concern the mountain states where high elevation exposes us to more intense UV irradiation. Dr. Leachman illustrates it best by saying, “Someone standing on the summit of Mt. Timpanogos [Utah] will burn 66-to-77 times faster than someone standing on a beach in Los Angeles [California].” Lechman adds, “Skin cancer incidence is increasing at an alarming rate here in the United States, so it is important that we all take proper precautions to protect ourselves.” The AAD solidifies Leachman’s remarks, reporting 1.3-million Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer this year. The risk is real,” Leachman says. “There is a real need for people to take necessary precautions and to teach patients how to advocate for themselves [in reducing their risk for skin cancer].”

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