One of the great things about soccer is that it gets us outdoors.
We all know that some sun is good for us and gives us an important dose of Vitamin D3. However, as the summer months approach, it is good to educate ourselves a bit more about ways to protect ourselves, our families, and our student athletes from the damaging effects of too much sun.
Research continues to point to the fact that skin cancer is on the rise. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer in an article for Time.com, “…up to 95% of malignant melanomas are caused by excessive sun damage.”
The American Cancer Society states that 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed worldwide is a skin cancer. So, what can we do to prevent too much exposure to the sun? Costa Rica Soccer Tours has 8 must-read skin cancer prevention tips tips to follow:
1. Avoid peak sun hours when possible
The best way to avoid sun damage is to use common sense practices regarding your outdoor activities this summer.
Typically, the sun is strongest and most damaging from 10AM to 2PM. It’s best to avoid being outdoors for extended periods during these hours. Playing outside in the early morning and evening hours would be the safest time to do so.
2. Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone
The consumer watchdog group, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding a chemical called oxybenzone, which is widely used in the majority of sunscreen brands.
The EWG has listed this sunscreen ingredient as potentially affecting cellular function and causing organ system toxicity. However, there is some controversy about this, as the American Academy of Dermatology approves of oxybenzone and the FDA has not prohibited its use in sunscreens.
If you’d like to be on the safe side, the EWG has published their recommendations for over 250 sunscreen brands they consider to have a lower level of health risk. Click here to see which brands meet their criteria.
3. Use enough sunscreen and apply frequently
The important thing is to be vigilant in covering all your exposed skin with sunscreen and re-apply every few hours.
Athletes playing soccer outdoors will likely be sweating a lot and should reapply sunscreen every two hours. Dr. Henry W. Lim, chairman of the Dermatology Department at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, feels that people often don’t spread enough lotion on their body. He recommends a portion of 1 oz. (a full shot glass) to be applied every few hours, and even more frequently if engaged in intense exercise or swimming.
4. Cover up!
Search for shade when possible.
Play in a shaded area or bring along an umbrella or tent to create shade for yourself while resting. Wear hats to cover your head and face when possible. Use a lightweight long sleeve shirt to protect your arms and shoulders from the sun’s intense rays.
5. Choose mineral sunscreens such as zinc oxide instead of chemical sunscreens
There are two different types of sunscreens: mineral and chemical. A common way to tell the difference is if your sunscreen leaves a barrier (oftentimes visible) on your skin, instead of being immediately absorbed.
This is because mineral sunscreens typically contain zinc and titanium, physically block the sun by creating the barrier. Whereas chemical sunscreens actually break down after being applied and soak into your skin, and could ultimately cause more harm than good.
According to Dr. Josh Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine, chemical sunscreens (such as oxybenzone) break down in the sun, penetrate deep into the skin and have the potential to cause hormone disruption and allergies.
6. Use a sunscreen of SPF 30 to 50
A higher SPF is more expensive, causes a false sense of safety, and provides minimal additional benefit.
Many consumers buy the highest SPF sunscreen and assume that this gives them the best protection. However, this is not the case. A sunscreen with an SPF higher than 50 adds very little extra sun protection.
According to an articled published by CNN, an SPF of 15 removes 93% of the sun’s UVB rays, while that percentage extends to 98% at the SPF 50 level. While an SPF of 100 might provide “more” protection, it is minimal, and definitely not worth the extra money.
Use an SPF of 30, but make sure to apply enough at first, and reapply over time during exposure to sun. This is far more important than relying on a higher SPF.
7. Use a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum”
There are two separate rays of sun that cause damage to your body: UVB and UVA radiation.
SPF values only refer to UVB ray protection, while the UVA rays can still cause aging and damage to the skin. Dr. Ariel Ostad, a clinical assistant professor in the department of dermatology at New York University Medical Center says, “Evidence has shown the best sunscreens are the ones that block UVB and UVA.” These sunscreens are labeled “broad spectrum.”
8. Use sunscreen lotions instead of sprays
There has been a recent increase in the amount of spray sunscreens being sold on the market. Though they appear to be more convenient, they can be unintentionally inhaled. This is an easier way for harmful chemicals to enter your body than through skin.
Also, since sprays can float away in the air while you are trying to apply them to the skin, an additional benefit to using sunscreen lotion is that less is wasted.
It is important to educate ourselves, our families, and our student athletes about reducing exposure to the sun and preventing skin cancer. We all love the game of soccer and most of us play outdoors. Let’s enjoy the sport we love while taking the necessary precautions to keep everyone healthy.