17/ Sunshine

From my earliest memories it has been one of life’s unalloyed pleasures to feel the sun on my body.  Unfortunately, in decades past parents were less mindful of the need to protect skin from harmful UV radiation.  The ozone layer was thicker, the sunshine thinner.  The present range of screens and creams and blockers was not available and the imperative that sunburn particularly during childhood and adolescence should be prevented at all costs was not wholly understood. 

Skin damage is cumulative over a lifetime.  A history of strong sun exposure enhances likelihood of non-melanoma skin cancers – basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – and the strong risk of a melanoma itself developing.  While it is recognised that any one of a range of complex factors may be the cause, over exposure to sunlight poses by far the biggest risk.

Recently I’ve been advised to wear a hat so I’ve taken to donning a fedora when I leave the house.  Its theatrical history – long pre-dating Johnny Depp, and even Frank Sinatra – appeals to my vanity.  Its broad brim affords maximum protection.

Even in Ireland insolation can be intense enough to make it wise to be aware of the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of clothing.  The kind of fabric, its weight, colour and, especially, the weave and stretch all have a bearing.  Holding material up to the light to see if the sun’s rays shine through is not a reliable enough test because added chemical compounds, UV absorbers, can alter ratings. In terms of colour, I’ve read that the more vivid, the greater the protection.  But in Ryadh where I worked for four years the thobes, the long white robes of Saudi men and boys, were invariably a pristine, mind-dazzling  white, while women were clothed in public from head to toe in all black abayas.  I guess they should know how best to live comfortably under that blank and pitiless sun.

© Benóg Brady Bates


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