Save Your Skin When Fishingby Captain Steve Smith on 05/04/14
If you've been fishing for any length of time, you undoubtedly have met someone along the way who has been the unfortunate victim of skin cancer. While most cases are benign and do not generally metastasize, the threat of deadly melanoma is an ever-present reality to saltwater fly-fishermen.
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Those who spend extended periods of time under an intense sun are more vulnerable to this potentially fatal disease, and for years anglers have paid careful attention to sun-protection factor (SPF) ratings associated with sunscreen products commonly applied before and during a day of fishing.
But increasingly, as apparel manufacturers develop ever more advanced products, anglers are wising up to the fact that the very clothes they wear can also play a dramatic role when it comes to protecting their bodies.
Cover it up
To be sure, anglers should always apply liberal amounts of sunscreen to bare skin that comes in direct contact with the sun — the higher the SPF rating, the better. But they should pay equal attention to ultraviolet-protection factor (UPF) ratings associated with their clothing.
"It's so important," says Jaelithe Milich, marketing communications specialist at ExOfficio, a Tukwila, Washington-based apparel manufacturer. "A regular T-shirt has a UPF of about 7. You may not get sunburned through that T-shirt, but you'll get a lot of rays penetrating through it that could affect you in the long term — especially in a tropical environment."
So what factors play a role in increasing a garment's UPF rating?
Several things, most notably the composition of the yarns, the tightness of the weave or knit (a tighter weave improves the rating), color (darker colors are generally better) and stretch (more stretch lowers the rating). Additionally, fabrics often produce a lower rating when wet, and garments become less effective when timeworn or faded.
"[But] tighter fabric weaves, heavier-weight fabrics and darker colors are not always the best way to achieve a high UPF rating," says Diane Bristol, director of marketing and brand management at Simms Fishing Products. "The combination of a tighter weave, which is less breathable, heavier fabric and dark color would make this type of shirt uncomfortable for a hot-weather fishing environment."