In general, exercise is a good thing. However, if you’re an outdoor athlete, take note: being active outdoors puts you at a high risk for skin cancer — which could be deadly.
Outdoor Athletes and Skin Cancer
If you run, bike, golf or play other sports outside, you have an increased risk for skin cancer (including both nonmelanoma and melanoma skin cancers), and not only because you spend so much time in the sun. Sweating makes your body more sensitive to the sun’s harmful rays. This makes the risk is twofold: spending time outdoors ups your risk of skin cancer and sweating makes your skin even more vulnerable to damage. Plus, with heavy sweating, some sunscreens come off and stop being as effective.
The risk is even greater for athletes who participate in certain sports. If you’re a rower or surfer, you’re even more susceptible to skin cancer since the sun’s rays reflect off water. Skiers, snowboarders and other alpine sport athletes have an especially high risk, too, because ultraviolet (UV) radiation increases at high altitudes and the sun reflects more off snow- and ice-covered surfaces.
Avoiding the Burn
Thankfully, you don’t have to stop exercising and give up your healthy habit in the name of cancer prevention. Skin cancer can be prevented.
The best way to reduce your risk of skin cancer is to use sunscreen whenever you’re outside, even on cloudy days, since 80 percent of the sun’s dangerous UV rays can pass through clouds. Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher that guards from both UVA and UVB rays. These tips can also help protect you from the sun:
· Be generous with sunscreen. You’ll need approximately one ounce of sunscreen to properly cover your entire body. It works best when it’s lathered on thickly. Apply sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips and ears. Choose a sport variety or one that’s sweat or water resistant.
· Put it on before you head out. The sun can harm your skin in as few as 15 minutes. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours and after swimming.
· Cover up. Some fitness apparel companies make clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number or on the label. This material absorbs UV rays and stops them from hitting your skin. Always wear a hat and sunglasses that block UV rays, too. Invest in a pair of sunglasses with wraparound lenses to shield the sides of your eyes from the sun.
· Seek shade during midday. Avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is when the sun is at its highest and UV rays are at their peak. This is also the hottest time of day, so working out in the morning or evening hours will also feel more comfortable.
· Be mindful of the UV index. The UV index measures the amount of UV light reaching the ground on a particular day. The UV index ranges from one to 11. The higher the UV index, the stronger the sun’s rays. Be extra careful outside when the UV index is high.
How do you protect yourself from the sun? I run on tree-covered trails. The shade keeps me cool and helps hide me from the sun.