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Sun-protective clothing: Why it's worth it

by jmaloni


Sat, Aug 9th 2014 02:10 pm

The Skin Cancer Foundation shares the benefits of covering up 

The Skin Cancer Foundation encourages people to enjoy the outdoors while still protecting themselves from the sun. One way to protect yourself is with clothing, which is the single most effective form of sun protection for the body. It's a great way to shield your skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, which account for 86 percent of melanomas and about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers.

Whether hiking, spending time at the beach or walking to work, it's easier than ever to keep covered with sun-protective clothing. It's the new trend in fashion, and these garments are available to meet different lifestyle needs.

"Clothing is your first line of defense when it comes to sun protection," said Perry Robins, M.D., president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. "It is a consistent shield that helps protect your skin from the sun all day."

However, not all clothing offers the same level of protection. A fabric's weave, color, weight, stretch and fiber type all help determine how well it keeps out UV light. Polyester, nylon, wool, silk and denim are especially good at stopping UV light, while loosely woven, bleached cotton offers the least. In fact, a light cotton T-shirt has a UPF of only about five, meaning it allows 1/5th of the sun's UV rays to penetrate - even more when wet or stretched out.

At the other end of the spectrum, a long-sleeved denim shirt offers a UPF of up to 1,700, virtually a total sun block.

Today, manufacturers offer special UV-absorbing clothing from swimsuits and rash guards to hats, long-sleeve shirts and pants. These items are usually labeled with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating, a number similar to the SPF (sun protection factor) labeling for sunscreen. The UPF rating indicates how well the garment filters out UV rays. Unlike SPF, which indicates how long you can stay in the sun before being burned, UPF tells how much of the sun's UV radiation filters through your clothing.

Clothing is a growing category in The Skin Cancer Foundation's seal of recommendation program, which awards the seal to sun protective products that meet specific criteria for safety and effectiveness. The foundation's seal of recommendation standard for fabric is UPF 30 or higher. By looking for the seal, you'll know the product effectively protects against the sun's UV rays.

The following brands have products that currently hold the foundation's seal: Boy Scouts of America, Columbia Sportswear, Coolibar, J.Crew, Lands' End, O'Neill Wetsuits, Specialized Bicycles, Sundriven, Wallaroo Hats Co. and Whitworth Hats.

While clothing is a great option for sun protection, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends following a complete sun protection regimen that also includes seeking shade and wearing a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to using sunscreen daily.

For more information on sun-protective clothing, visit SkinCancer.org.

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