It’s Your Skin…Protect It!

It’s Your Skin…Protect It!
I'm still seeing way too many anglers wearing ball caps while out on the bay all day. While they may be comfortable to wear, they're not very practical for protection against the sun.

Oh I know, the wide brim straw hats, the French Foreign Legion hats, safari hats, and all the others that protect the face, ears and the back of the neck do not look cool, but neither do a bunch of scars left over from skin cancer surgery. Let's face it; if you spend enough time in the sun, especially on the water where you a double-whammy of direct as well as reflected rays, you are a prime candidate for skin cancer and much it never shows until later in life. Having a dermatologist slice away affected tissue is not always the answer for failing to protect your skin from the sun, some folks actually die from it.

There are all kinds of hats that do a good job of protecting you from the harmful UV rays of the sun. The straw hats that the golfers fancy are what I prefer but the selection of different styles and makes is almost endless. The floppy hats that protect the neck, ears and face and tie under your chin are good while running the boat but in the end it is your choice on what style fishing hat fits your personal style. Just remember that out on the water the fish really don't care about what fashion statement you're trying to make. Try some on at your local tackle store and find one that is comfortable but that still protects you. Years from now you and your family will be thankful that you did.

I stopped fishing in short sleeve shirts years ago and now wear only long sleeve shirts for fishing trips. Honestly, they are no hotter than short sleeve shirts and in fact when the sleeves get wet my arms are much cooler due to the cooling effect as water evaporates from the sleeve material. Besides, it's nice to come back to port and not have your arms burned and wishing you had remember to put a tube of Aloe Vera or some other ointment in your shaving kit. With the many material choices available in fishing shirts these days there really isn't any reason not to wear long sleeves to protect your skin, is there?

On a recent trip a member of our group suffered bad sunburn on the insteps on both his feet; bad burns that could have been prevented had he worn footwear that offered protection. The next couple of days he couldn't even think of putting his wading boots on sad part is that it could have been so easily prevented with just a little planning on his part. He also learned that the "waterproof" sunscreen does indeed come off with sweat and water and that re-applying sunscreen throughout the day is necessary.

What about sunscreen? The Environmental Work Group, has released their 2010 sunscreen guide and while I won't go into what sunscreen is "best" since you can read what they have to say on their website, I will pass on what they recommend.

The EWG states that "all top-rated products contain either zinc or titanium minerals to help cut UVA exposures for sunscreen users." They go on to state that the best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt but that when you must use sunscreen you'll be better protected when wearing one that contains either zinc or titanium than any other compounds.

So now you know what to look for in your sunscreen, right? Well here comes some sobering news.

"The power of sunscreen to protect against sunburn is well known; this is the feature of sunscreens identified as the Sun Protection Factor or SPF. Yet, the wide availability of sunscreens has allowed people with light-color skin to stay outdoors longer, often aiming to get a tan or to maximize burn-free time in the sun (Autier 2009; Lautenschlager 2007). Expert's recommendations to wear sunscreen are tempered. Skin cancer rates continue to increase in the U.S. and other countries. Studies do not provide evidence that sunscreen protects against the deadliest form of skin cancer, and scientists are not certain about which type of UV radiation, UVA or UVB, is most dangerous and therefore most important for sunscreen to block or absorb. Sobering statistics on skin cancer raise basic questions about sunscreen efficacy:
Even though more people use sunscreen than ever before, the incidence of skin cancer in the United States and other countries continues to rise (Aceituno-Madera 2010; Jemal 2008; Osterlind 1992).

A number of studies conducted in the 1990s report higher, not lower, incidence of the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, among frequent sunscreen users (Autier 1995; Westerdahl 2000; Wolf 1994).

According to the American Cancer Society, malignant melanoma accounts for only 3-4% of all skin cancer cases, but is responsible for 75% of all deaths attributed to the disease each year (ACS 2010) (See side-bar: "The 3 types of skin cancer")

To date, studies show that regular sunscreen use reduces risk for squamous-cell carcinoma (SCC) but not other types of skin cancer. SCC, a slow-growing, treatable cancer, is estimated to account for just 16% of all skin cancers annually."

Many thanks to all of the fine researchers at the EWG for all of the excellent information that they provide to those of us who enjoy the great outdoors.

Sort of makes you think twice about that ball cap doesn't it?

It's really up to all of you to do all that you can to protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of the sun. Practicality really takes precedence over looking cool when it comes to selecting clothing that will protect you. And, there is absolutely nothing "unmanly" about lathering on the sunscreen.

If you do not already have a dermatologist, find one and make an appointment to be checked out. As with all cancers, early detection is the key to successful treatment. The doctor will check you from head to foot and if there are any irregularities he or she will recognize them immediately. I visit my dermatologist once a year and the peace of mind is worth ten times more than the doctor charges.

Just do it and be safe.