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Fashion Forward Sun Protection


M. D. Anderson Reveals How to be Stylish While Reducing Skin Cancer Risks

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center now offers insight into how some of today’s hottest fashion trends can offer a tremendous amount of sun protection without leaving you feeling like a well-greased baking pan.

When it comes to sun protection, sunscreen always has been high on the sun protection radar. It still is – but Susan Y. Chon, M.D., assistant professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Dermatology, explains how the hottest trends from the spring/summer 2009 runway shows also can provide skin cancer prevention and maximize clothing’s sun protection power.

The most fabulous, current sunglass styles are those with extra-large frames that help protect the delicate skin around the eyes from skin cancer and aging. Sunglasses also should have broad ultraviolet (UV) protection that absorbs at least 99 percent of UV rays for maximum cancer prevention benefits.

Leggings have now become a runway staple and can go under dresses and tunics even in hot weather because they aren’t as heavy as pants. They are a great way to defend legs from UVA and UVB rays while running errands or at an outdoor barbeque.

“Women have a tendency to develop skin cancer on their legs at a much higher rate than men,” Chon said. “This is probably due to more sun exposure over time from wearing bathing suits, shorts and skirts.”

Long dresses:
Another leg-saving fashion trend that is extremely popular on the runways for spring/summer 2009 is the move from “mini” to “maxi.” Long dresses are everywhere, and are being worn for day and night.

Modern, wide-brimmed sun hats shield the face, neck, ears and chest from the sun. This season on the runway, the bigger the brim, the better!

Sun hats also should be tightly woven. If the hat of choice is straw, be sure the sun isn’t peeking through by holding the hat over the ground and looking at the shadow it casts. If the shadow is speckled with light, think about investing in a new one.

Tunic tops:
Pretty, “boho” style beach cover-ups with long sleeves are a great way to save a person’s skin from being over exposed in a teeny-bikini. Tunic tops are not only perfect on the beach but also can transition from day to night when worn with the right accessories, like chunky bracelets, necklaces and belts!

“When you’re at the beach, any extra help you can get is great,” Chon said. “Continue to wear sunscreen, but an additional cover-up is essential, especially anything that has long sleeves.”

Summery shawls and scarves in lightweight fabrics are back again this season! Starlets everywhere are wearing them, and they keep often forgotten spots, such as the back of the neck and delicate décolletage, safe from harm. Even men can get in on this skin-saving trend.

“Women are usually pretty good about applying sunscreen to their face, but generally forget their necks and the ‘v’ of their chests,” Chon said. “A light scarf is a great way to cover neglected skin that gets a lot of sun exposure during summer months.”

One-piece bathing suits:
While bathing suits are not known for providing much in the way of coverage, the new trend of one-piece bathing suits gives skin on the stomach an extra layer of protection. One-piece suits also provide more coverage of the lower back, an area often missed while applying sunscreen.

Maximize clothing’s sun protection power
“There are certain colors and fabrics that will offer more protection than others,” Chon said.

To maximize clothing’s skin cancer prevention powers, wear tightly woven, dark-colored fabrics. A simple way to test a tee’s UV level is to hold it up to a light bulb. If the light is visible through the shirt, it probably isn’t offering the maximum protection.

“You don’t need to wear special UPF clothing to get extra protection, just wear a sunscreen with SPF15 or higher under layers,” Chon said. “It is absolutely possible to be fashion conscious and protect yourself from the sun. The trends on the runway this year offer more coverage. We love that!”

No matter what you wear, it’s important to always apply sunscreen and seek shade whenever possible. However, for the days that you do choose to have fun in the sun, you can look your best and play it safe by wearing sun-protective clothing. Anyone feel like shopping?

M. D. Anderson expert available for interview:

Susan Y. Chon, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology
Chon is a dermatologist whose specialties include treating patients with skin cancer, melanoma, dysplastic nevi and oncology-related skin toxicities. Chon leads the department in sponsoring skin cancer screening events in the Houston community. Chon is currently developing new techniques to improve the effectiveness of skin cancer screening through improved educational resources and diagnostic devices.


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