Hats for Sun Protection

Yes, wearing a hat could add years to your life by helping to prevent deadly skin cancer.

Feathers, flowers and lace may fascinate the crowds at the racetrack, but a simple hat is what you really need.

Oh, go all out for Oaks and Derby, but then park that bedazzled accessory on a hat stand and get a real workhorse. We’re talking durable, versatile and protective — all the things you should look for in an everyday hat.

What? A hat for everyday wear? Your mother would be pleased, and so would your dermatologist. Yes, wearing a hat could add years to your life by helping to prevent deadly skin cancer.

Who knew being fashionable could literally save your skin? Choose a hat with a wide brim that shelters your face, ears, chest and neck. Opt for solid fabric instead of straw, which can filter sunlight onto your sensitive scalp and ears. If you simply must have a straw hat, choose one with a thick weave or a fabric liner to block out the sun’s rays.

A friend’s skin cancer was first noticed by her hairdresser, who questioned an unusual spot on her scalp. Forty-something years of sun exposure — most often without anything covering her head — had caught up with the strawberry blond.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer, accounting for nearly half of all cancer cases in the United States.

More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, the CDC reports. The more serious type of skin cancer, melanoma, is expected to be diagnosed 76,000 times this year, and accounts for nearly 10,000 of the annual 13,000 skin cancer deaths, the agency reports.

Basal cell or squamous cell cancers, which develop on sun-exposed areas like the face, ears, neck, lips and backs of the hands, can be cured if found before they grow large or spread, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma develops in the cells that produce the skin pigment known as melanin, and also can be cured if found in the very early stages, the society reports.

Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation, through natural sunlight or tanning booths, are cited as top risks for skin cancer — especially among people with pale skin that sunburns easily. Every time you have a severe sunburn, it ups your chance for developing skin cancer, according to the CDC.

So besides covering up, what can you do to protect yourself? The CDC and American Cancer Society offer these tips:

  • Periodically scan your skin for changes. Ask a friend to check areas you can’t see well, such as your back.
  • Talk with your doctor about new growths or changes in the size or color of a mole, growth or spot. Report any scaliness, oozing, bleeding or sores that don’t heal. Point out changes in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness or pain.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB absorption to protect your eyes and the surrounding skin.
  • Apply a generous amount of broad-spectrum sunscreen to unprotected skin at least 30 minutes before outdoor activities. Reapply every two hours and after swimming, toweling dry or sweating. Make sure your product has a sun protection factor of 15 or higher.

And about that hat: If your hat of choice is a baseball cap or other style that doesn’t have a wide brim, don’t forget to slap some sunscreen on your ears and the back of your neck.


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