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A Quick Look at Awnings, Ultraviolet Radiation, and Skin CancerBack to All Posts
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is just outside the visible light spectrum (just below violet in the rainbow) and occurs naturally with sunshine. There are two wavelengths of UV radiation, called UVA and UV-B. When you get a sunburn, it is because UV radiation has penetrated beneath the surface of your skin and caused minor damage. UVA penetrates even deeper than UVB, going past the dermis (all of the top skin and surface blood vessels) and to the subcutaneous picture.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. This is true both for the total number cases (about 5.4 million) and the total number of patients (3.3 million). There are more skin cancer survivors than all other cancers combined.
Skin cancer isn’t just common statistically — it is common enough that you probably know people who have already been diagnosed and treated with some form of it. Half of everyone over the age of 65 will get some form of skin cancer, but the effects are cumulative, from years of sun exposure.
There are some common risk factors for skin cancer:
Extended exposure to sunlight
Using tanning beds
Having severe sunburns
Having a compromised immune system (such as cancer or organ transplants)
Although skin cancer deaths overall have jumped almost 20% since 2009, men are increasingly facing more melanoma diagnoses and deaths than other groups.
The thing about skin cancer is that it is almost entirely preventable. Almost 90% of cases are caused by excessive sun exposure. In fact, more people develop skin cancer from tanning than those who get lung cancer from smoking.
Most people have learned to limit their direct sun exposure — but it may not be as effective as you think. SPF 15 sunscreens only reduce the cancer risk by 40-50%, and sunscreens wear off and lose their effectiveness in about two hours. (And depending on the type, not all are as effective of blocking both UVA and UVB rays.)
For outdoor areas, and even for indoor seating areas with large windows, there is a way to provide much more effective protection, and that’s with retractable awnings. Back in 2005, Sunbrella fabrics were given a Seal of Recommendation by the Skin Cancer Foundation based on a series of lab tests that proved that their solution-dyed acrylic fabrics blocked up to 98% of UV rays.
For blocking UV rays, the Skin Cancer Foundation has a couple of recommendations on what is most effective:
Go dark. Darker colors are more effective at blocking UV rays.
Tighter weaves are better. The tighter the weave, the more effective they are at blocking UV rays. The solution-dyed acrylic fabrics we sell here are all tight weaves, but there are some alternative fabric types, like, PVC mesh fabrics, which may not be as effective because they allow more light through. For absolute protection, we even offer blackout fabrics.