Whether travelling across the city or across the world for major sporting events, sports fans often aren’t prepared for the dangers of sitting in the sun for hours on end.
They not only risk the discomfort of sunburn but also the long-term consequences of skin cancer, according to Dr Eddy Bajrovic, the Medical Director of Travelvax Australia.
In fact, new research has revealed that sports lovers are at the same risk of being sunburnt at sporting venues as they are at the beach, park or other high-risk outdoor settings.
“For Aussies, travelling overseas for the Olympics, the Tour de France, the World Cup, or an Ashes series is now commonplace,” Dr Bajrovic said.
“Unfortunately, spectators can get stuck out in the open under the sun for hours on end where they risk at least short-term sunburn or long-term skin cancer – even at winter events, when they don’t expect sun exposure to be a problem.”
Catch the plays, not the rays
The latest National Sun Protection Survey commissioned by the Australian Cancer Council found that 22% of Australians are getting sunburnt at sporting venues – exactly the same percentage as at beaches, lakes or rivers.
Males are at highest risk: the researchers found that over the next three years, 44,000 Australians will be told they have melanoma and around 2-in-every-3 will be men – the gender that dominates attendances at major sport events.
Young men in particular think ‘catching some sun’ is part and parcel of attending major outdoor event.
“What they fail to realise is that as soon as skin turns pink or red, damage has already occurred,” Dr Bajrovic said.
“What’s more, the number of times you get sunburnt increases your risk of developing potentially fatal melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
“Of course, there is also the risk of sunstroke – especially if you are consuming alcohol, which dehydrates the body.
“So whether it’s watching Tour de Suisse cycling behind a guardrail in Switzerland or watching a footy final in Australia, sun protection is just as important as drinking enough water for your body to maintain healthy hydration levels.”
Our 5 Sun Smart Tips
To help you dodge the sun while you catch the sporting action, we’ve got some skin-friendly advice.
1 – Check the forecast – wherever you’ll be
Crossing the Equator for a sporting event can often mean swapping one season for another. And, if the weather channel sounds a bit ‘last century’, there’s now a free Smartphone app to help you prepare for what the sun has in store at your destination. The World UV app for iPhone and android smart phones is a joint initiative of the British Association of Dermatologists and the UK’s Met Office. At the touch of a button, it shows you the predicted UV peak for almost any country in the world, along with the predicted maximum sun strength for any given day.
The app can be downloaded completely free of charge for iPhone users from the iTunes app store and for android smart phone users at Google Play.
What’s more, it offers practical advice on sun protection options and what sunscreen you should use based on your individual skin type.
As a rough guide:
• SPF 30+ is the recommended sunscreen for white- or fair-skinned people who burn frequently and rarely tan.
• SPF 15+ is the correct choice for people with light to intermediate, olive, brown or black skin who tan easily and rarely get sunburned.
2 - Ensure the hits keep comin’
A single slip, slop, slap is simply not sufficient. You should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before venturing into the sun. This allows the active ingredients to fully bind with your skin and block damaging UV radiation.
Think you’re done? Not even close.
You should reapply the same amount of sunscreen every two hours – the time it takes for your skin to use up all active ingredients.
Of course, the good news is you can apply sunscreen on the spot: No need to pull yourself away from the action.
3 - Cloudy skies? Stay sunscreen wise
The penetrating power of UV is a force to be reckoned with. Even on days of total cloud cover, up to 40% of the sun’s UV radiation reaches Earth. So, just because you can’t see the sun, doesn’t mean you can forget about protecting your skin from damage. You need to take the same precautions on cloudy days as when the sky is wall-to-wall blue.
4 - Dress for the occasion
It is a common misconception that sunscreen is a single silver bullet. Sadly, no sunscreen can totally block out the sun’s UV rays, so you also need to:
• Avoid the sun during the most intense hours – Around 50% of the total daily solar UV dose reaches the earth between noon and 3pm.
• Choose UV protection-rated sunglasses – They shield your eyes and eyelids from the sun to prevent periorbital skin cancers, cataracts, pterygia, photokeratitis, snow blindness and other optical sun damage.
• Use broad-spectrum sunscreen – Always choose broad-spectrum products that block both UVA and UVB rays. And, be kind to your skin too by opting for hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic sunscreens. Skin protection can come without rashes, clogged pores, or acne.
5 - Don’t skimp on sunscreen
Be sure your slap, slop doesn’t slip up by applying sunscreen too sparingly. Here is one scenario where you really can’t get too much of a good thing. Many slap-happy sunscreeners simply don’t apply enough of this liquid lifesaver. So while you’re taking the right action you may only be getting about 50-80% of the protection promised by your chosen sunscreen. Make sure your skin enjoys 100% protection. Half a teaspoonful will see your face, neck and ears right. Then, get a little more liberal with your limbs and body – a full teaspoonful of sunscreen will keep your skin safe.
Be Sun Smart and you’ll be around for decades of top-flight sport.
Travelling overseas? Get more healthy advice and arrange a pre-travel medical consultation at a Travelvax Australia clinic. Call 1300 360 164 (local call from landlines) for details.