Professional athletes are some of the most physically fit and resilient people on this planet. Their training and lifestyle choices make them almost superhuman, but, studies by Science Direct and board-certified dermatologists are shedding light on a potentially deadly challenge athletes face at a higher average rate than most: skin cancer.
Are Athletes at a Higher Risk of Getting Skin Cancer?
A study conducted by The Physiological Society found that athletes who train outdoors exceed the recommended ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure limit by over eight times in the summer and fall months alone. This heightened UV exposure significantly increases the risk of skin cancer for athletes.
Despite this heightened risk, surveys conducted in this same study found that only 25% of athletes said that they regularly use sun protection like sunscreen or UPF clothing or consider sun damage to be a significant threat.
If you're a professional or recreational athlete, we're sure these findings were shocking, they were surprising for us too. We decided to reach out to our good friend and NFL tight end Kahale Warring to hear his take on the situation. Read more about what he has about sun protection and professional athletes below.
Interview with NFL Tight End Kahale Warring About Skin Cancer Prevention
Is Sun Protection Talked About or Considered Important During Training or at Football Games?
“Definitely. Sun protection is important to consider as an athlete for performance purposes if nothing else. We don't want to get sunburnt or get heat exhaustion because then we can’t play as well.”
Do You Have Access to Sunscreen or Other Forms of Sun Protection While Training or During NFL Games?
“Yeah, there is sunscreen available in the locker room and on the training field, but I mainly just see the coaches using it.
A lot of players seem to prefer to just cover up with training sleeves or long-sleeve undershirts if they cover up at all. Our gear usually covers most of the rest [of our bodies].”
Is Sun Protection Something that Your NFL Coaches or Trainers Bring Up at Practices or Games?
“Yeah, the trainers are always covered in sunscreen and constantly remind us to put some on. But I don't see many players actually wearing it. Those that do decide to do it more for performance purposes. There’s not a lot of talk about skin cancer or other ways [sun damage] can affect us in the long term.”
Do You Think Sun Protection Is Important?
“I personally think sun protection is super important. I grew up swimming, playing water polo and just generally being around water a lot. I always had to wear sunscreen or stay covered up with swim shirts or I would get sunburned super bad.
I also have family in Hawaii and spend a lot of time out there. Almost all of my relatives and older family friends who grew up out there around the water have had to deal with the long-term effects of sun damage in some way or another. Seeing them with cataracts and scars from skin cancers being removed definitely taught me to respect the sun and the damage it can cause.”
Remember the Importance of Sun Protection and Sun Safety with UV Skinz
It was a pleasure to speak with Kahale about his personal perspective on the importance of sun protection and the role it plays in professional sports.
Although it was encouraging to hear that sun protection is more prevalent in the NFL than we would have expected, only the short-term effects of sun damage seem to be considered by most athletes and trainers.
Sure sunburns don't feel good and can negatively affect how an athlete performs, but when it comes to sun protection what we're really concerned about is those sunburns and UV exposure turning into skin cancer over time.
How Athletes Can Stay Protected from the Sun
Whether you're a professional athlete or a recreational one, protecting yourself from the sun's UVA and UVB rays is crucial. As professional athletes spend a significant amount of time in the sun, this is especially true for them. Here are some tips on how athletes can practice sun safety:
- Wear UPF 50+ clothing whenever possible and cover your head, neck, arms, and torso.
- Put on broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen and don't forget to reapply it every 2 hours.
- Try to stay in the shade or out of the sun during peak sun hours.
- Use a lip balm with SPF to protect your lips.
- Stay hydrated with water and electrolytes.
- Watch the UV index and take more precautions when the UV index is high.
Be sure to keep yourself protected from the sun's UV rays with either UPF clothing and/or sunscreen whenever you're playing outside - whether that's for a professional sports team or with your family.