This is the bad news.
One of every five Americans is going to develop skin cancer. It is the most common form of cancer in the country today, accounting for one out of every three cancer diagnoses. And melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has the unpleasant distinction of being the fastest rising in terms of its rate of occurrence.
More problematic, still, is the fact that anglers are among the group of folks most likely to contract skin cancer because we spend so much time in, on, and around water, snow and sand. The three surfaces that most reflect the sun's damaging ultra-violet rays and are responsible for triggering malignant tumors.
The good news is that there are many practical things we can do to heighten the enjoyment of our fishing experiences, while at the same time substantially reducing our risk of developing skin cancer.
Think slipping, slopping, slapping, seeking and sliding.
The slogan is part of an ingenious Australian sun safety campaign that began over 35 years ago and has been adopted by health care agencies and skin cancer organizations around the world. And it starts by slipping into clothes that fully cover your arms, legs, hands, feet, neck and face.
"Clothing is the most basic and generally best means of sun protection," says the Skin Cancer Foundation (skincancer.org), which notes that the clothes we put on are our first line of defense against the sun's UV rays. They protect us by absorbing and blocking out much of the damaging radiation.
It is interesting to note, too, that tighter knit fabrics with smaller holes provide greater protection than materials with more open weaves. And synthetic fibers like polyester, lycra, nylon, and acrylic are much better at blocking out ultraviolet rays than fabrics like bleached cotton.
Bet you didn't know this, too: a dark fishing shirt will typically block out more of the sun's harmful UV rays than the same shirt in a lighter hue. And if you get hot, think twice about jumping into the lake to cool down. At least with your clothes on because wet clothing offers far less protection from the sun's rays than dry clothing. The Professional Realtree Fishing Blue Banded Zipper Jersey, for example, is super stylish and yet, designed to shield your body from harmful UV rays.
Super important, too, is the fact that the advanced technology that Realtree incorporates into its clothing offers a superior Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of 25, which means that it will allow only 1/25th, or a minuscule four-percent of the UV rays to pass through it. So even if you forget to reapply sunscreen, which you should never do, you're still covered.
And remember what I said about wet clothing offering diminished sun screen protection? Realtree's trademark Gemini fabrics are specifically designed to transport moisture away from your body, to the outer layer of the fabric where it can quickly evaporate away.
Their tightly woven Intera fabric is also part of a moisture wicking system that keeps you dry and regulates your core body temperature. It is important to mention, too, that the fabric is extremely resistant to wear and doesn't fade.
Speaking from a personal perspective, of all the fishing clothes that have come along to help keep us safe from the sun, I find neck gaiters like Realtree's G2 Neck Gaiter to be a godsend. Probably ninety-percent of the precancerous growths I've had removed over the years have been on my face, neck, ears, nose and lips.
These are the most exposed and vulnerable parts of our body, for the simple reason that we've been unable to cover them up with clothes, like our arms, legs and the rest of our bodies.
And neck gaiters are so versatile, because you can fold them in so many ingenious ways to cover not only your neck, but the rest of your facial features. And wearing a gaiter means you're covered, even if you forget to reapply sun screen.
Which brings us to a critical point.
Talk to most anglers and they'll tell you that they religiously apply sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 30. But studies show that few of us ever put on enough sunscreen to achieve the specified rating.
So, how much is enough?
Well, believe it or not, a 120 ml tube of sunscreen should give you only four or five applications. That is right. To achieve the SPF factor on the label, you need to apply the equivalent of a shot glass full of sunscreen about half an hour before you go fishing and then reapply it every two or three hours that you're out on the water.
And let's not forget two other essentials that you need to wear every time you go fishing. A broad brimmed hat provides the same shade as a tall, leafy tree, and while it might look cool to turn your hat backwards for the occasional fish picture, remember the brim is there for a purpose - to shade your face.
Ditto for sunglasses that protect your eyes.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology you need to choose shades that provide 100-percent protection against the sun's ultra-violet rays. As a general rule, too, the larger the glasses, the better they protect your eyes, so choose sunglasses that are oversized or wrap around your face.
It is a misconception, too, that darker lenses are superior to lighter ones. As long as the glasses block 100-percent of the ultraviolet rays, get the lens color you like the most.
It is worth pointing out, too, that while polarized sunglasses don't provide any additional protection, they dramatically cut out the glare from water, sand and snow and thus, reduce eye strain, making the time we spend out on the water so much more enjoyable.
Even better still, sunglasses like Realtree's Happy Lens, Frazier Camo and General Sunglasses all incorporate the company's Trident Polarization technology that blocks out the head throbbing, glare-filled rays to provide a stream of clean, clear light. And because the Trident Polarization is layered and sealed within the injected ARC lenses, it will never diminish for as long as you own the glasses.
Don't think it can any better than this? Well, you had better think again, because the Realtree Happy Lens series goes so far as to let in the good long-wave blue light that promotes balance in our body's circadian rhythm.
Talk about a win for the only pair of eyes you're ever going to have.
And win is what you will do when you apply an adequate amount of sunscreen, wear a wide brimmed hat, slip into comfortable Realtree clothing and wear your Realtree sunglasses.
Take these simple, practical precautions every time you go fishing and you'll greatly reduce your risk of being the one in five American who will develop skin cancer.