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By Dr. Susan Van Dyke
October 7, 2011

Summer in the desert is over so we no longer need to worry about too much sun, right? Wrong, the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation can harm your skin, regardless of the temperature. The majority of the UV rays that hit the earth, in fact, are ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which are present in about equal intensity throughout the year. Sun protection is a year-round commitment!

The vast majority of skin cancers are linked to UV exposure. Melanoma, the deadliest form, is continuing to increase in number. Over 68,000 cases were diagnosed last year (including in one of my golfing buddies). Babies born this year have a one in 50 risk of developing melanoma in their lifetime. Nearly every hour in the US someone loses their life to melanoma (including my aunt who died months after the initial diagnosis).

So, what can we do??

SkinCancer.org has some great suggestions for us all.

Fall brings with it many outdoor spectator sports. Here are some suggestions to healthy skin all year round even for the football fan.

  • Wear Sunscreen

    Sunscreen is a must. Choose a product with an SPF of 15 or higher, and some combination of the following UVA-blocking ingredients: avobenzone, ecamsule, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. Apply a full ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to the entire body, including a nickel-sized dollop to the face, 30 minutes before heading outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after sweating heavily. And don’t skip the sunscreen if it’s overcast: Up to 80 percent of the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation) can penetrate clouds — and harm your skin.

  • Dress the Part

    The more skin you cover, the better. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants protect the skin on your arms and legs, and are perfect for the changeable fall weather. If you’re worried about overheating, look for clothes made of breathable materials, like certain microfibers and specially-treated athletic wear. For cooler days, densely-woven, dark-colored fabrics (like deep blue denim) are heavy enough to keep you warm, and lightweight enough for comfort.

  • A baseball cap may be your idea of a hat, but a hat with at least a 3” brim all around (such as an outback or bucket hat) will protect your head, neck, and shoulders — the parts of the body that sustain the most sun damage, and the most common sites for precancers and cancers.
  • Cover Your Eyes

    Between five and 10 percent of all skin cancers occur on the eyelid, and UV radiation can also lead to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Protect your eyes with a pair of UV-blocking sunglasses. For the most sun protection, choose larger-sized frames that shield the eyes, eyelids, and surrounding areas, or a wraparound style with side shields.

  • Look for a pair of sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV radiation (the sunglasses’ tag or packaging should say this). Make sure your shades fit comfortably. Sunglasses that slip down your nose don’t give as much protection.

  • If you’ll be watching a sport on a solid-color surface (like grass or Astroturf), brown-tinted lenses provide great color contrast and visibility.

  • Sit Strategically

    If possible, sit in the shady section of the stadium or field — under an awning or overhang, if possible. If you can’t find a seat out of the sun, consider bringing a portable shade structure or an umbrella with you.



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