Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun has damaging and potentially deadly effects on the largest organ in humans, the skin. Ultraviolet radiation is to the skin, what a flame is to a marshmallow. Almost one million cases of skin cancer are now identified in the U.S. each year. Retinal degeneration and cataract formation, both of which lead to blindness, are also very prevalent in today's society. Both are also largely associated with UV-exposure. Considering the amount of sun exposure athletes tend to accumulate, and all while sporting minimal clothing, extra precautions to protect the "UV-vulnerable" tissues like the skin, lips, and eyes are essential.
So how does the athlete combat UV-radiation? Well, let's just say protection is everything. This means wearing proper eye protection every time exercise takes place outdoors. It also means the regular use of sunscreens for skin and lip protection. With so many sunscreens on the shelves, it gets a little tricky deciding which ones for you. For starters, pick a sunscreen with a sun-protectant-factor (SPF) of no less than 15. Many sunscreens now contain antioxidants found to enhance UV-protection. The most effective antioxidant photo protectors to look for include vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), and polyphenol extracts from green tea. Oral supplementation of these and other popular antioxidants have also been shown effective in protecting one from UV-damage.