Most long-sleeved clothes do not protect your skin from the sun, experts say. Here's how to find a safer cover-up.

·3 min read
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Across the country, sweltering heatwaves have set soaring temperature records and have led to hospitalizations and deaths.

People are beating the heat in various ways - including wearing fewer clothes.

"You can make a safe assumption that if it's hot out for longer periods of time, people whose skin is exposed to the sun probably will face a greater risk of skin cancer," Dr. Brian Gastman, the surgical director of the Melanoma & High-Risk Skin Cancer Program at the Cleveland Clinic, told Insider.

Dr. Mark Faries, co-director of the Melanoma Program at Cedars-Sinai Cancer-The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, also drew a connection between how high temperatures inevitably lead to more sun exposure.

"A warming planet means that people won't be as well covered with clothing, possibly leading to more damaging exposure and more skin cancer," Faries wrote over email.

But covering up doesn't do much either.

"People don't realize that most of our clothes are not UV protected," Gastman said.

Skin cancer cases are on the rise

This year, around 106,110 melanoma cases - the most dangerous type of skin cancer - are expected to occur, up from 100,350 in 2020, with 7,180 people estimated to die, according to the American Cancer Society.

This upward projection falls in line with recorded cases of all skin cancer rates, which have been rising over time. Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, said melanoma rates have been rising 2% each year.

Some of that can be attributed to our aging and growing population, our increased detection of cancer at early stages, and popular use of tanning beds.

However, Gastman said, "it is possible that the UV rays that we're seeing now [during the heatwaves] could tip someone over" into a higher risk category than before.

Long-sleeved shirts don't protect you from the sun

One way to lower your risk of developing skin cancer is your clothing choices - and it's not a long-sleeved shirt.

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a measure of how protective a piece of clothing is against UV rays.

Cotton and linen shirts have a UPF measure of 5, for example, meaning 95% of UV rays will penetrate through the shirt.

Polyester has a UPF of over 30.

Where to find more protective clothing - or boost the defenses of your own clothes

Some clothes are designed to have built-in sun protection, with tightly woven threads that block out UV rays. Coolibar and Solumbra, for example, sell dresses, skirts, and leisurewear that have a UPF of 50 by using special weaving. The Skin Cancer Foundation also has a list of brands that sell UV protective clothing.

Another option is adding SunGuard to your clothes during a wash. The additive can make a cotton shirt jump from 5 to 30 UPF, for example.

Read the original article on Insider