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The big cover-up: sun protection goes beyond sunscreen

The big cover-up: sun protection goes beyond sunscreen

It's hard to imagine that the sun can simultaneously be so important and so detrimental to life as we know it. The sun provides warmth and life for all living organisms. It is also one of the single most effective ways to help the human body synthesize vitamin D, an essential component of bone health. But it's the negative effects of the sun, including its dangerous ultraviolet rays that contribute to sunburns and skin cancer that make it a formidable foe. The downside of sun exposure, while perhaps more prevalent during the summer months, is a concern any time of year.

The National Safety Council warns that overexposure to UV radiation is the primary environmental risk factor in the development of UV-related adverse health effects, which include diseases of the eye, immune suppression and skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. One million new cases are diagnosed each year, and one American dies every hour from skin cancer.

Most people have taken heed of repeated warnings about the need for sun protection -- especially applying sunscreen. But their efforts may not be enough. Perhaps Dr. Mark Chamberlain, Doctor of Pharmacy at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, says it best: "Sunscreens don't prevent skin cancer, they can only reduce the risk. If time spent in the sun remains the same, a person with a 50 percent chance of developing skin cancer will reduce the risk to only 20 percent with daily use of sunscreen."

One reason is because people generally forget to protect the skin that is hidden beneath clothing, thinking the clothing is protection enough. However, The Wacoal Sports Science Corporation, makers of CW-X(R) Conditioning Wear ( knows differently. They understand that individuals can receive sun damage through their clothing. If you can see light though a fabric (try this on your favorite T-shirt), UV rays can get through as well.

Taking sun exposure seriously, the company has developed CW-X LiteFit, VersatX and Insulator lines of sun-blocking performance apparel with integrated titanium oxide fiber technology to protect sports enthusiasts or everyday people who enjoy the outdoors from the harmful effects of UV radiation. The clothing features an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). This is a term used to describe the ultraviolet protection offered by fabrics and is based on a scale of 15 to 50+. In fact, every CW-X garment has at least a UPF of 40+. It's a passive form of sunscreen you never have to think about -- you are automatically protected whenever you get dressed.

Most determatologists say protecting yourself and your family from the harmful rays of the sun is a multi-layered effort. The American Melanoma Foundation and the Skin Cancer Foundation suggest these tips:

• Avoid the sun during the hours of the strongest rays, which are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

• Check the radio or the television for the daily UV index. The higher the number, the greater amount of protection you will need.

• Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect both your eyes and face from the sun. Be sure your sunglasses offer both UVA and UVB protection, which should filter out at least 80 percent of the sun's rays.

• Remember that ultraviolet rays can damage the skin even if it's cool outside, or if the sky is hazy or overcast. Take precaution.

• Always use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes prior to going outdoors and reapply every two hours, especially during exercise or swimming. Don't forget to apply sunscreen to your ears and lips.

• Invest in clothing that offers a high UPF rating, particularly if you spend a good portion of your time outdoors for work or recreation. For more information on clothing with UPF and where to buy it, visit

• Children and the elderly should use extra caution in the sun, as their skin is delicate and more susceptible to sun damage. Sun exposure by these groups should be limited, and children 6 months and older should use sunscreen.

For more information on preventing skin cancer, visit,, or

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