Skin Cancer in Fish: New Motivation for Better Sun Protection

UPF clothing offers anglers a first line of defense, foundation says

August 9, 2012
Sun-protective clothing

Sun-protective clothing

Courtesy Columbia

So, fish can get skin cancer. Go figure.

According to an article from Catholic Online, 15 percent of the coral trout at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have cancerous lesions on them. That’s all due to an ozone hole that’s centered over Antartica but overlaps the reef, the article states.

That hole also makes Australian people more likely to suffer from skin cancer than others around the world. But if fish underwater can incur sun damage, that’s certainly a worrisome reminder that all of us need protection — especially anglers who spend hours on open water.


According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, clothing is “our first line of defense.” And while that’s no help to the coral trout, it’s certainly a quick fix for humans. The primary factors to consider about clothing, according to the foundation:

  1. tightness of the weave — tigher weaves block more ultraviolet rays
  2. type of fiber — synthetic and semi-synthetic fibers are better
  3. thickness/density — heavier fabrics obviously offer more protection
  4. color — dark or bright colors absorb and stop UV rays
  5. UPF label — the number on the label indicates what fraction of the rays are blocked by the fabric.

Since few anglers would wear black corduroy fabric on a fishing trip — especially now during the heat of summer — companies such as Columbia and ExOfficio have designed lightweight, protective fabrics that also provide cooling technologies. (See photo gallery.)

ExOfficio’s Sol Cool and**** Dryflylite collections feature sun protection; Sol Cool also offers Icefil technology, which incorporates a compound called Xylitol (found in birch trees) to create a cooling sensation on the skin.


In addition, venting is crucial for sun-protective fabrics because they are indeed made with a tighter weave, ExOfficio says. For instance, Air Strip and Reef Runner shirts feature full side venting.

Columbia**** just introduced its latest cooling technology — Omni-Freeze Zero — to anglers at last month’s ICAST fishing-tackle trade convention, winning a best-of-show award for the new Airgill Chill Zero Long Sleeve shirt. The Chill Zero incorporates little blue rings of polymer embedded in the fabric. As you sweat, the rings swell and create a mechanical reaction that cools your skin. (Note: Omni-Freeze Zero can’t help you this summer; it will be available in February 2013.)

Columbia’s current lineup features a variety of Omni-Shade sun-protective fishing garments. Products in that lineup and those from ExOfficio come with UPF factors of 30 to 50. So they block a good portion but not all of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Columbia and ExOfficio say they also spend a lot of time on other details such as popup sun collars on shirts, thumb loops to extend fabric over the hands, and they have created products such as neck gaiters, bandanas and hats.


Because both companies use fabrics and technologies that are part of the garment versus using coatings, the sun-protection properties do not wash out, ExOfficio says. The cooling properties usually wane over time, but it takes 50 to 70 washes.

Now, if we can just get these companies to make fish shirts for coral trout!


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