The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal

MAY 2012

The 2012 edition of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal features medically reviewed, reader-friendly articles such as tanning, the increasing incidence of skin cancer diagnoses among young women, & the prevalence of melanoma among white males over 50.

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Page 71 of 103

INTERNATIONAL Ready To Wear Sun Protection Clothing Fits the Bill PETER GIES, PHD, AND ALAN MCLENNAN, NZCS W hat's the best way to protect yourself from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays (UVR), given that we need to work, travel, and sometimes play outside? Clothing is the most basic and generally the best means of sun protection. Not all clothing is equal, however, and some of it isn't actually very good at protecting us. So, what makes a piece of clothing sun-safe? MORE IS MORE The sun damage done to every exposed part of your body is cumulative over your lifetime, continually adding to your risks of premature skin aging and skin cancer. So, to put it simply, the more skin you cover, the better. A long-sleeved shirt covers more skin than a T-shirt, especially if it has a high neckline or collar that shields the back of the neck; long pants cover more skin than shorts. A wide-brimmed hat protects more of the face than a base- ball cap, and close-fi tting wraparound sunglasses protect more of the area around the eyes than small lenses do. Cover up. The sun damage done to every exposed part of your body is cumulative over your lifetime, continually adding to your risks of premature skin aging and skin cancer. 70 FABRIC FACTORS Of course, you can have clothing over every square inch of your body, but if the sun goes right through it, it's not much use. Fabrics are made of tiny fi bers woven or knitted together. Under a microscope, we can see lots of spaces between the fi bers; UV can pass directly through these holes to reach the skin. The tighter the knit or weave, the smaller the holes and the less UV can get through. Twill, used to make tweeds or denim, is an example of a tightly woven fabric. Open weave fabrics provide much less protection. [Figure 1, p.71] Fabrics can be made from many types of fi bers, including cotton, wool, and nylon. Most fi bers naturally absorb some UV radiation, and some have elastic threads that pull the fi bers tightly together, reducing the spaces between the holes. Synthetic fi bers such as polyester, lycra, nylon, and acrylic are more protective than bleached cottons, and shiny or lustrous semi-synthetic fabrics like rayon refl ect more UV than do matte ones, such as linen, which tend to absorb rather than refl ect UV. Finally, con- sider the fabric's weight and density — light, sheer silk gauze will provide far less UV protection than heavy cotton denim.1,2,3 COLOR COMPARISONS Most of our clothing is dyed attractive or functional colors. Many dyes absorb UV, which helps reduce exposure. Darker colors tend to absorb more UV than lighter colors, including whites and pastels, but bright colors such as red can also substantially absorb UV rays.3 The more vivid the color, the greater the protection; a bright yellow SK IN CANCER FOUNDAT ION JOURNA L Even a pale fabric can offer good protection if the weave, material, weight, etc. are effective at keeping out UV. Apply sunscreen on all exposed areas — clothing can't cover everything.

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