Your Armor Against Skin Cancer
Who would guess that your adorable frock or hot looking pair of swim trunks are serious defenses against cancer-causing rays? Today, you can find a boutique of high-tech clothing that guards you and your loved ones against solar damage. These aren't the bulky, just cover-you-up clothes from days gone by. Contemporary fun-in-the-sun outfits protect down to their very fibers while being lightweight and comfy.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) includes clothing in its four ways to prevent skin cancer"Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap." 
The phrase reminds us to:

  • Slip on a shirt.

  • Slop on sunscreen.

  • Slap on a hat.

  • Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and the skin around them.

  • Slip on a shirt.

  • Slop on sunscreen.

  • Slap on a hat.

  • Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and the skin around them.

How Does Clothing Protect You?

A sunscreen lotion's potency is measured by its SPF. For fabric, the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is the rating system. A garment with a UPF of 50 only allows 1/50th of the UV radiation falling on the garment to pass through it. Put more simply, it blocks 98 percent of the UV radiation. UPF 50 is the highest level of protection.

Factors that often make a garment more comfortable can make it less protective. If you can see through the fabric, UV rays will penetrate. In choosing outdoor clothing, one of the leading manufactures of such wear, Coolibar, offers these UPF boosting factors that you should look for:

  • Tight weave.

  • Dark colors.

  • Heavier fabrics.

  • Less stretch.

  • Addition of UV absorbing or diffusing chemicals.

More Coverage for Kids

Children need extra protection. Childhood sun damage seems to increase adult skin cancer. The ACS says that babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight and all children should be protected from the sun using hats and UV-blocking clothing. Children's swimsuits made from sun-protective fabric and designed to cover the child from the neck to the knees are becoming common pool wear. Many top youth clothing makers have gotten the message.

For all ages, the ACS advises that you start at the top with a good hat featuring a 2- to 3-inch brim all around. Baseball caps don't protect the neck and straw hats have too loose a weave. Check out the shade hats river rafters made popular, sporting fabric hanging down the back covering the neck.

From the neck down, the more coverage, the better. That doesn't mean a big, dark bag over your body. The Floral Dots Beach Dress by Coolibar covers adorably. Often forgotten—until wrinkling and " age spots" appear—are the hands. Coolibar's gloves, with or without fingers, protect on the beach, on your bike, in the garden and beyond.

Protective Clothes for All

One Step Ahead offers protective clothing, sunglasses, cabanas, tents, bathing suits and more for children. The venerable outdoor clothier Lands' End introduced Sun.Life UPF clothing. Sun Precautions has a line called Solumbra, which blocks more than 97 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

You'll find the largest selection of UV protection attire from the usual suspects of outdoor clothing and gear makers such as Columbia Sportswear, REI, Royal Robbins, The North Face, ExOfficio and Outdoor Research.

Don't want to throw away the clothes you have? Try products like SunGuard that reportedly infuse fabric with 96 percent UV protection and retain that value for about 20 washings.

For more information visit the American Cancer Society.