Protect Yourself From Dangerous UV Rays
By Terry O’Grady, M.D.
As surfers, we love the beach—the waves, the water, the fresh air
the sun. As much as we love the warmth of the sun on our backs when
sitting in the line up, we need to be aware of the threat that this
poses to our health.
Whether you have fair skin or dark skin, each day spent in the sun
causes irreversible damage. The damage is cumulative, each "solar
insult" added to the last. Even on cloudy days, the
ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate through to our skin. It's even
worse on those days because we don't feel the warmth and don't think
we're being exposed.
UV rays from the sun damage the skin in many ways. One is to alter
the clastic tissue, causing wrinkling and aging of the skin. The
freckling and "liver spots" or "old age spots" are
from changes in the skin's color-producing cells. The worst effect
from UV radiation is alteration of the skin cells to form cancers.
There are two kinds: non-melanoma (basal
cell and squamous cell) and melanoma. Of the two, melanoma is the
most serious and can cause death. Although not usually as deadly,
non-melanoma cancers can cause a great number of problems. According to American Cancer Society statistics,
more than a million people in the United States alone are diagnosed
yearly with non-melanoma skin cancer, while 48,000 are diagnosed with
melanoma. Although melanoma only represents 4 percent of skin cancer
cases, it accounts for 79 percent of skin cancer deaths. With this
as a preventable risk, how do you protect
yourself and still enjoy surfing?
The sun's rays are most dangerous between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. So if
you can surf early in the morning or late in the afternoon, you reduce
your risk significantly. When you’re out in the sun, wear sunscreen
(hopefully "waterproof" or at least "water
SPF 30 or greater, no matter what your skin tone. If you're out in the
water an extended time, reapply the sunscreen.
When you're on the beach, wear protective clothing, especially a hat
with a brim (this is especially important for surfers losing the natural
protection of their hair!). Don't forget to wear sunglasses and seek the
shade. When in the water, wear a rash guard, tee shirts offer no
protection from UV rays at all.
your own skin for early skin cancers, look for sores that don't
heal, new bumps or "moles" that suddenly appear. Not all
"spots" on your skin mean a cancerous growth, but
rapidly-changing spots or bumps should be checked by your doctor.
If skin cancer is detected early, the prognosis is almost always very
Enjoy the surf and protect your skin.
Editor’s note: for more
detailed information on skin cancer, visit these web
Parents--some of these sites
provide graphic images of cancer and have links to other medical sites
that may not be appropriate for children.
American Academy of Dermatology
University of California Davis
ABC Health Report
American Cancer Society