Sun Protection FAQ
Why is UV sun protection important?
Sun protection is important because sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer and over one in 5 Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US; each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or 5 or more sunburns at any age more than doubles the risk of melanoma later in life. UV radiation from the sun is associated with about 90% of all skin cancers. And to add insult to injury, up to 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun as well.
The good news? Skin cancer is highly preventable with UV protection, including UV protective apparel, sunglasses, sunscreens and reducing sun exposure between 10AM to 4PM. (Source: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
What is Sun Protection clothing? Why shouldn’t I just stick to my usual sunscreen?
A 2007 review in the medical journal, The Lancet, reported that UV protective clothing and reducing sun exposure are more effective than using sunscreen.
The advantage of coLLo’s sun protection apparel is that our sun protection is mechanical, not chemical and so it does not wash out, rub off or sweat off– they are an intrinsic, non-chemical part of our fabrics.
Part of the problem with sunscreens is that most people neither apply enough sunscreen nor do they reapply frequently enough or 30 minutes before sun exposure for effective chemical absorption. There’s also the stickiness/glop factor and the fact that sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into your body with unclear consequences.
With appropriate sun protective clothing, your sun protection level does not vary. Plus you avoid the ‘sticky’ factor of sunscreens and the scary pollutant factor which is being reported about a number of common sunscreen ingredients which are showing up systematically in our population and in our oceans, lakes, and waterways.
What is the difference between SPF and UPF sun protection rating scales?
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a UVB-only sun rating for sunscreens only.
Basically, SPF testing has some poor person stick his/her arm in UV light and the time until s/he gets sunburned is measured. If that guy/gal sunburns in 5 minutes without sunscreen and, for example, ten times longer (50 minutes) with sunscreen,then that lotion is SPF 10. This is a measure of UVB (think Burning rays and cancer), not UVA spectrum rays (think Aging/skin damage and cancer rays).
Note that sunscreen manufacturers self-test their products without a standard test protocol or certification and Consumer Reports found only 2 of 20 tested provided the SPF protection promised after water immersion, with 18 ranging from 4 – 50% less than claimed. The non-profit organization, The Environmental Working Group does independent annual testing of sunscreen safety and effectiveness for UVA and UVB for thousands of sunscreens and is well worth checking.
UPF (UV Protection Factor) is defined specifically for fabrics.
It measures how much UVA and UVB radiation gets thru the fabric barrier. Standard test procedures must be followed, as defined by several testing agencies (see next section). For example, UPF 50 means that the amount of the UVA and UVB radiation that makes it through the fabric is 1/50 or 2% of the incoming UVA and UVB light. UPF 50+ (the highest allowable rating) means less than 2% of the UV light gets through. UPF 30 means 1/30 = 3.33% of the incoming UV rays get through to you, etc. So higher UPF ratings have better UV protection.
What sun protection level (UPF) is enough for me?
The Skin Cancer Foundation, recommends sun-protective fabrics with at least UPF 30 for extended sun exposure. They consider a UPF rating of 30-49 to offer very good protection and 50+ excellent protection. Although like regular clothing, sun-protective clothing may lose its effectiveness if pulled too tight or stretched out, if it becomes damp or wet, or if it is washed (for UV additives) or worn through
Note: coLLo’s microfiber polyester blend fabrics do not lose UPF ratings when wet, nor does repeated washing affect coLLo’s microfiber polyester-based fabrics.
However, your mileage may vary– infants, children, very fair complected people, those with sun sensitivity (sometimes due to medications, chemotherapy, lupus and other conditions), those in extreme environments (water/snow reflection, high altitude, near equator etc.) should increase their sun protection levels.
How much sun protection is available in ‘regular’ clothing?
The material, thickness, color, whether the fabric is stretched or wet– all affect UV protection levels. Generally, light-colored, loosely woven fabrics offer less sun protection than dark, tightly woven or fine-gauge knit fabrics. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a dry white cotton tee shirt offers a UPF value of around 5 to 7 (blocks 80 – 86% of UVA and B) and about UPF 3 when wet, or 66% blocking). A darker green tee shirt may be around UPF 10 when dry. Heavy dark denim offers an estimated UPF value of 1700. Fabrics with a sheen (polyester, nylon, silk) tend to reflect more UV rays than matte natural fibers such as cotton, rayon or wool.
Also, natural fibers tend to lose about 50% of their UV protection level when wet because the fibers relax and there are more ‘gaps’ in the material. Synthetics tend to mat when wet and so usually increase the level of UV protection. Chemical additives can be used at home or by the manufacturer to increase reflectivity (and thus UV protection) for a certain # of washes. coLLoʼs microfiber polyester blend fabrics do not lose UPF, and sometimes increase UPF ratings when wet, nor does repeated washing affect coLLoʼs microfiber polyester-based fabrics.
I’m dark complected ethnically and I tan easily. Am I safe from skin cancer?
No. While melanoma is uncommon in African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, it is frequently fatal for these populations; primarily because people of color are frequently diagnosed with skin cancer at later stages. These delays mean that skin cancers are often advanced and potentially fatal, whereas most skin cancers are curable if caught and treated in a timely manner.
Skin cancer represents one to two percent of malignancies in African Americans and Asian Indians. Although skin cancer comprises only two to four percent of all cancers in Chinese and Japanese Asians, the incidence is rising. Melanomas in African Americans, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 60-75 percent of tumors arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions. Among non-Caucasians, melanoma is a higher risk for children than adults: 6.5 percent of pediatric melanomas occur in non-Caucasians; c.f. skincancer.org.
Where can I find out more about UV protection and preventing skin cancer?
Please check our above sources and the following links for more information.
- Play Safe in the Sun
- Nat’l Skin Cancer Prevention Education
- The Skin Cancer Foundation
- PGA Tour Golf & sun protection
- American Academy of Dermatology
- American Cancer Society
The good news is that skin cancer and UV damage is highly preventable with UV protection.