Your Players: Burn Notice
It may seem like a minor item to stock, but sunscreen can play a major role in protecting your players.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, and over the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. One estimate says that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
But skin cancer also might be one of the most easily preventable forms of cancer. Protection from the sun is essential for prevention — about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, according to the SCF.
Tennis players are at particular risk, so it makes sense that you stock appropriate clothing and sunscreen products in your shop and at your facility to protect players when they go outside to play.
Shining a Light on UV
We’ve all heard about UV rays. There are actually three types: UVA, UVB and UVC. The short-wave UVC rays aren’t a concern for skin cancer since they don’t reach the Earth’s surface — it’s the UVA and UVB rays that cause the damage and are responsible for skin cancers. In fact, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have identified broad spectrum UV (“broad spectrum” means both UVA and UVB) as a human carcinogen.
UVA is long-wavelength ultraviolet radiation and accounts for up to 95 percent of the solar UV radiation reaching the Earth. UVA rays are present during all daylight hours, all year long, and they penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. For years, UVA has been thought to play a major role in skin aging and wrinkling, and recent studies suggest it can initiate and exacerbate the development of skin cancers. Importantly, UVA rays can penetrate glass and clouds.
UVB is the middle-range of UV and is responsible for burning, tanning and skin aging, and it plays a major role in the development of skin cancer. The most significant amount of UVB hits the U.S. between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. April through October.
Suffice to say, no matter what time of year, players need continual protection from both UVA and UVB if they’re playing outside, even on cloudy days. When considering sunscreen products, look at those labeled “broad spectrum.”
Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent harsh UV from damaging the skin. How does it work? If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, then a product with an SPF of 30 should protect your skin from reddening for about 10 hours (20 minutes x 30).
Another measurement is in terms percentage: An SPF 15 filters out about 93% of UVB rays. Products with SPF 30 block about 97% and SPF 50 keeps out 98%.
But often, people using higher SPF-rated products have a false sense of security and may stay in the sun longer, overexposing themselves to both UVA and UVB rays.
Philippe Autier, a scientist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, has conducted studies on sunbathers and believes high SPF products spur “profound changes in sun behavior” which have prompted the increased melanoma risk found in several studies. Also, the effectiveness of sunscreen products are decreased by longer exposure to the sun and constant sweating.
New FDA Guidelines
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration came out with new labeling and testing guidelines for sunscreens. Importantly, by the end of 2013, there will no longer be any sunscreens rated higher than SPF 50. Products with ratings higher than SPF 50 were not shown to increase the effectiveness of the sunscreen.
Another important change is that “broad spectrum” is now an official term and means a sunscreen product meets FDA standards for both UVB and UVA protection. (Before, “broad spectrum” was often used but had no official meaning.) If a product only protects against UVB, it will just say “SPF 30” (or whatever the SPF rating may be). If a sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB, the label will read “Broad Spectrum SPF 30.”
Additionally, the FDA ruling prohibits claims of a sunscreen being “waterproof” on a label, since a sunscreen cannot, in fact, be waterproof. New labels will appear with the term “water resistant,” but then must specify whether they protect for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, based on laboratory testing. Other terms that will no longer be allowed on sunscreen labels are “sunblock” and “sweatproof.”
So, protect your players, and keep them playing — all year long.
Guidelines for Sun Protection
- Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out into the sun.
- For lotions, use 2 to 3 tablespoons to cover your body. For spray products, apply as much as can be rubbed in, then repeat the process.
- Regardless of the SPF rating, reapply every 2 hours and again after sweating or swimming.
- Even when using sunscreen, limit time in the sun and wear protective clothing and a hat.
- Always check the expiration date.
- Don’t store sunscreen in a car; extreme temperatures will degrade its effectiveness.
See all articles by Cynthia Sherman
About the Author
Cynthia Sherman is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.