Hats are back for men as well as women, and that's good news for everyone.
If you thought that hats went the way of the dodo, think again. According to Accessories magazine, hat sales have been climbing for years, and estimates indicate that 2007 sales passed $1 billion. And it's not just women's wear collections that feature hats: Menswear designers such as Giorgio Armani, Michael Kors, and Bill Blass are also highlighting headgear.
The trend is particularly welcome because exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation (UVR) increases the risk of all skin cancers, and broad-brimmed hats provide significant sun protection for the head and neck. As it turns out, shielding these vulnerable areas is especially important.
Location, Location, Location
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, causing more than 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths. Over 70,230 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year, with nearly 8,790 resulting in death.
But not all melanomas are created equal. A recent study at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that melanomas on the head and neck are particularly dangerous. Among 51,704 non-Hispanic white adults with melanoma, patients with melanomas of the head and neck were almost twice as likely to die from the disease as patients with melanomas on other areas, including the trunk, facial skin, and ears.
While 5- and 10-year survival rates for most of the patients were 92.1 percent and 88.7 percent, respectively, rates for patients with melanomas of the head or neck were markedly lower, at 83.1 percent, and 76.2 percent.
Prevention Is In Style
Many of these melanoma deaths might have been avoided with proper precautions: "I think that wearing a broad-brimmed hat should help prevent melanoma of the head and neck, including dangerous melanomas of the scalp and neck," commented study coauthor Nancy Thomas, MD, PhD.
In addition to providing protection, sun-safe hats are now the height of chic: "For women, we'll see more oversized, wide-brimmed, floppy hats - straw in the summer months, and felt in the fall," Nicole Philip, Accessories' Fashion Market Editor, predicts. "They're good-looking, glamorous, and also practical." For men, "Sales of fedoras [a soft felt hat with a brim] are continuing to rise and newsboys [a soft, round cap with a visor] are still very popular."
So when you're headed out the door, don't just grab your keys: grab your hat, too!
Dress for Sun Success
Some manufacturers today include an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) number on the label. UPF labels indicate how much of the sun's UVR is absorbed by the product's fabric.
For instance, a hat with a UPF of 50 allows just 1/50th of the sun's UVR to reach the skin. To receive The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation, sun-protective fabrics must have a UPF of 30 or higher.
Even if your hat doesn't have a UPF label, you can up your protection factor by choosing headgear wisely. Look for hats with:
- Wide Brims: Hats with at least a 3"-brim encircling the circumference protect the face, ears, and neck. Examples include the bucket, cowboy, outback, and Panama.
- Curved Shapes: Look for hats that follow the contours of the head and neck.
- Dark Colors: Dark- or bright-colored hats absorb UVR better than paler colors.
- Opaque Materials: The denser the fabric, the higher the UPF. Look for closed-weave fabrics or tightly-woven straw.
Click here for a list of companies that manufacture clothing and hats that carry The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation.