Sailboarders spend many hours in the sun when windsurfing. With skin cancer a significant killer, especially in Australia, sailboarders need to take precautions.

The Australian Cancer Council reports that every year in Australia:

  • skin cancers account for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers
  • two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70
  • more than 10,000 people are treated for melanoma, of which more than 1,200 die
  • melanoma is the most common cancer in people aged 15–44 years
  • melanoma is the third most common cancer in both women and men

This creates a problem for sailboarders as the nature of windsurfing means that sailboarders are right in the firing line. After all, who goes sailing at night?

What Causes Skin Cancer

The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to sunlight. The Australian Cancer Council states that “unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation – from the sun or other sources such as tanning machines in solariums – remains the most important risk factor for skin cancer.”

The damage is done by the three types of ultraviolet light:

  • UV-A causes premature aging of the skin.
  • UV-B cause most skin damage.
  • UV-C is the most deadly and is mainly filtered out by the earth’s ozone layer.

Three Main Types Of Skin Cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma is the most common.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is an ulcer or lump. This can be treated easily if seen early.
  • Malignant melanoma is the killer. Usually it is a mole that changes colour or shape.

These descriptions are only a guide. If a sailboarder had any doubt at all about a strange lump or mole he should have it checked by a doctor.

Preventing Sun Cancer For Sailboarders

The best way for sailboarders to prevent sun cancer is to stay out of the sun, but this is impossible! That new sail will never get wet or the duck gybe won’t be mastered!

Full clothing is the next best way of keeping the sun at bay. Lycra body suits are a popular form of protection. They aren’t cheap, but for someone with fair skin who spends a great deal of time sailboarding, they are perfect. Wet suits used for warmth also offer protection from the sun.

Suncream should be used to cover parts not protected by clothing. The higher the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) the more protection the cream will offer.

Hats For Sailboarding

A hat is essential! The best type of hat depends on the type of windsurfing. If pottering around on a long board in light winds, a big straw hat is perfect. If out in the raging ocean tackling the white water, a small peaked hat is better, preferably with a rope or some attachment so it doesn’t blow off.

Damage to Sailboarder’s Eyes From The Sun

If these problems with the sun on the skin are bad enough, then another cause for concern is the effect of the sun on the eyes. There is increasing evidence to suggest that UV light can cause damage to a sailboarder’s eyes such as cataracts. Sunglasses will cut out most of the UV light, but the good pairs that cut out 100 per cent are best.

There are attachments available that fit onto sunglasses forming a small peak over the nose; and covers on the side.

Wearing sunglasses can also cut the stinging salt spray while on a speed run.

A sailboarder should take some form of safeguard as too much sun is a killer.

The type of protection will depend on a sailboarder’s skin type. Fair skinned people should take the most precautions. In a lot of cases a combination of suncream and body cover works well.

Sailboarders spend too much time in the sun to ignore the risk of skin cancer from the sun’s UV rays.