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Lather up with sunblock before your day outdoors

May 07, 2006|By Bill Anderson

I recently learned that one of my favorite fishing guides died from complications associated with skin cancer. He had been guiding in South Florida for more than 40 years, which means he began decades before we became aware of all of the risks associated with ultraviolet radiation. I have told people for years you could usually tell a Florida guide simply by shaking his hand: It was like shaking hands with a wire brush.

We have come a long way in understanding the effects of UVR, and how to protect ourselves from it. UVR is what causes sunburn and if you spend a lot of time in the sun, it can become much more than a minor inconvience.

Fishing guides, farmers and other people who make their livings outdoors are usually very aware of the effects of the sun. This is especially true of long-term exposure. Most people now know that there are a wide variety of sunscreens available to protect you from the sun.

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The key number is the Sun Protection Factor. For example, if you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 50, it should block nearly 100 percent of UVR. But the one factor that the medical community is constantly pointing out is the SPF ratings are based upon lab conditions, and that the product is tested after frequent and heavy applications. The average user does not use as much product, nor apply the product as often as the laboratory test cases.

Another important factor for fishermen or boaters is to use a sunscreen product that is waterproof and sweatproof. One product (Bullfrog Sun Screen) even has a surfer formula for the ultimate waterproof sun screen protection. I still think you should apply the product several times a day.

Another relatively new area in protection from the sun is SPF clothing. Some of the clothing made specifically for fishermen now features excellent UVR protection. You can now buy fishing shirts, pants and hats with a high SPF factor. Many of the tropical fishing camps highly recommend SPF clothing for all clients.

If all of this protection seems excessive, consider the alternative. The long-term health issues are obvious and even moderate sunburn can quickly ruin a trip that cost you a lot of time and money. It is totally avoidable by using the products that are readily available today.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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