When the warmer weather arrives, baseball rivalries heat up, bringing fans to the bleachers. You may think that cheering on your favorite team is a safe enough pastime, but sitting in the stands can be dangerous. The sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation can harm your skin, regardless of the temperature. The majority of the UV rays that hit the earth, in fact, are ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which are present in about equal intensity throughout the year. Sun protection is a year-round commitment!
Excessive exposure to UV radiation is considered the main cause of approximately 90 percent of all skin cancers, and is also associated with eye damage, including cataracts; premature skin aging; and reduced immune system functioning. But you can stay safe during baseball season, and beyond, with The Skin Cancer Foundation's guide to spectator sports.
Sunscreen is a must. Choose a broad spectrum product with an SPF of 15 or higher (UVA/UVB-blocking). Apply a full ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to the entire body, including a nickel-sized dollop to the face, 30 minutes before heading outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after sweating heavily. And don't skip the sunscreen if it's overcast: Up to 80 percent of the sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation) can penetrate clouds - and harm your skin.
Dress the Part
The more skin you cover, the better. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants protect the skin on your arms and legs, and are perfect for the changeable spring weather. If you're worried about overheating, look for clothes made of breathable materials, like certain microfibers and specially-treated athletic wear. For cooler days, densely-woven, dark-colored fabrics (like deep blue denim) are heavy enough to keep you warm, and lightweight enough for comfort.
A baseball cap may announce your team affiliation, but a hat with at least a 3" brim all around (such as an outback or bucket hat) will protect your head, neck, and shoulders - the parts of the body that sustain the most sun damage, and the most common sites for precancers and cancers.
Cover Your Eyes
Between five and 10 percent of all skin cancers occur on the eyelid, and UV radiation can also lead to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Protect your eyes with a pair of UV-blocking sunglasses. For the most sun protection, choose larger-sized frames that shield the eyes, eyelids, and surrounding areas, or a wraparound style with side shields.
Look for a pair of sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV radiation (the sunglasses' tag or packaging should say this). Make sure your shades fit comfortably, and don't slip down your nose! If you'll be watching a sport on a solid-color surface (like grass or Astroturf), brown-tinted lenses provide great color contrast and visibility.
If possible, sit in the shady section of the stadium or field - under an awning or overhang, if possible. If you can't find a seat out of the sun, consider bringing a portable shade structure or an umbrella with you.