Radiation Protection

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Sun Protection using Hats

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There is well established evidence that exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun can lead to skin cancer. Broad-brimmed hats, bucket hats and legionnaire-style hats are effective methods of sun protection to the head, ears, face and neck when used with a combination of other protective measures.


Download Fact Sheet (PDF 808 kb)

Health effects

ARPANSA and other national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organization have assessed that continuous exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun causes harmful effects on the skin, eye and immune system.

Wearing a board-brimmed or bucket hat is an important preventative measure to help reduce these risks.

What hat is best for you?

Wear a hat that provides shade to your head, ears, face and neck. Broad-brimmed and bucket hats and legionnaire style hats, provide the most protection. Baseball caps do not protect the neck and ears.

Hats can be a useful addition for sun protection of your head, ears, face and neck, but they will rarely provide sufficient protection on their own to anyone outside during sun protection times (when the UV level is 3 or higher). This is because, although they provide direct protection to different areas of the head, ears, face and neck, the Protection Factors (PFs) due to the shading effect of the brims are only single figures (e.g. 2–4) and rarely reach double figures (e.g. 10–15).

For example, in Australia on a fine summers’ day, a fair-skinned person outside and unprotected would receive enough solar UVR in about 15 minutes to cause sunburn. If they wear a hat with a PF of 2 or 3, they would need to be outside for two to three times as long to get sunburned.

Although hats are helpful, a combination of the five sun protective measures will be required if a person is outside during the sun protection times.

While hats are mostly useful against the direct sun, when it is cloudy there is more indirect and scattered solar UVR. The protection provided by hats can be lessened in such conditions.

How the design of the hat affects protection

The amount of protection provided to different areas of the face such as the nose, forehead, cheeks, neck and ears vary significantly depending upon the type of hat and the design. For example broad-brimmed hats (e.g. hats for adults with a brim of 7.5 cm or more) perform better at shading more of the facial areas than baseball caps. Caps provide reasonable protection to the scalp, forehead and nose but almost none to neck and ears. The table shows the amount of protection provided to different areas of the head by four types of hats.

Protection Factors provided for various facial and head sites from four different types of hats. The higher the Protection Factor number the better the protection.

Hat Type Forehead Cheeks Nose Ears Chin Neck
Brimmed 15+ 2 7 6 >1 2
Bucket 15 2 6 7 >1 2
Baseball cap 9 >1 4 >1 >1 >1
Legionnaire's hat 13 3 10 4 >1 >4

 

four different styles of hat - brimmed, bucket, baseball cap and legionairre's

Brimmed Hat Bucket Hat Baseball Cap Legionairre's hat

Does hat fabric matter?

What the hat is made of can be important – the hat material must block solar UVR. Most of the materials used in hats provide excellent protection against UVR as they naturally block or absorb it. Straw hats can have spaces between the individual fibres, but they also provide comfort and fashion and allow air circulation. If needed, a second (inner) layer of material can be used to provide extra protection and comfort. If buying a straw hat, look for one with a fabric lining.

Protection messages

The Cancer Council Australia provides further protective advice through national, state and territory Sunsmart programs and activities.

Links

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