If it's streaming sunshine outdoors and the sunscreen isn't
handy, grab an umbrella, researchers say. That little device could help shield
skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays, according to a new study by dermatologists at
Emory University in Atlanta.
They found that any fully-functioning handheld umbrella can
block more than three-quarters of UV light on a sunny day. Black ones seem to
do the job especially well, blocking at least 90% of rays.
"In addition to sunscreen, I often encourage people to
engage in other sun-protection measures," said Dr Brundha Balaraman, a
dermatology researcher from the Washington University School of Medicine in St
Umbrellas good for
Along with using an umbrella, those other measures can
include wearing wide-brimmed hats and sun-protective clothing, she
said."These are all great alternatives in situations where it may be
impractical to apply sunscreen adequately... every one to two hours,"
Balaraman, who wasn't involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.
For their study, Dr Suephy Chen and her colleagues wanted to
test more rigorously whether handheld umbrellas - used for sun protection by
many women in Asia and the Middle East, and a popular accessory for American
women in past centuries - really do block UV light.
How the study was
So they asked around and collected 23 working umbrellas - no
fabric tears allowed - from people at their medical school. On a sunny morning
in April, the researchers used UV devices to measure radiation just under each
umbrella's fabric and by the nose of the person using it. They compared those
numbers to umbrella-less radiation readings.
All but one of the umbrellas was a standard, handheld rain
umbrella. The other was a travel sun umbrella. The sun umbrella lived up to its
billing, blocking more than 99% of UV rays, Chen and her colleagues reported
Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology.
But devices originally intended to protect the user from
rain worked well too, blocking at least 77% of UV light - and more among the
darker-colored umbrellas. Balaraman said golfers and people traveling to warm
climates may especially benefit from carrying around a standard umbrella. But,
she acknowledged, "It's a little challenging to convince people to use
umbrellas on a daily basis."