Stylish Shade on Summer Days

MD Anderson Encourages Women to Use Parasols for Sun Safety

MD Anderson News Release 05/06/2010

In observance of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are encouraging women to be creative and use parasols to protect delicate skin from the sun.

“Opening a parasol, or umbrella, on a blazing hot day continues to be a stylish and effective way to prevent skin cancer in many countries,” said Susan Chon, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at MD Anderson.

Parasols not only help keep women extra cool; they also protect skin from the early signs of aging.

“Sadly, not many people carry parasols in the United States, but in other countries, it is a way of life,” Chon said.

The word “parasol” comes from Latin roots meaning “shade” or “shadow.” Women around the world have been using the parasol for centuries to protect their delicate skin from the sun.

No one knows the exact date the parasol was invented. It began appearing as far back as ancient Egypt, when pharaohs used parasols as a way to get shade from the desert sun. People in ancient Greece and Rome used parasols made out of leaves or colorful feathers. China came up with the idea for the collapsible parasol.

Think of the parasol as a fashion accessory

Today, women easily can find both fashionable and functional parasols. When shopping for a parasol, choose one that works for multiple occasions or purchase a few for activities such as:

  • running errands or sitting at a sidewalk café,
  • taking a walk on the beach or chatting by the poolside with friends,
  • hanging out at a family barbecue, and
  • sitting in the bleachers at a Little League baseball or soccer game.

Parasols also make great party favors, especially for outdoor weddings.

In many cases, women probably don’t even need to buy a parasol. Most women already have an umbrella at home or in their car.

Look for specific features when picking a parasol

Just keep in mind, certain parasols provide more benefit than others. “Skip parasols made of paper or extremely thin cloth,” Chon said. “They offer little or no protection from the sun. Instead, get a parasol in thicker, darker colored fabric.”

Many websites that sell Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing also have fun, colorful parasols. UPF indicates how much ultraviolet (UV) radiation can penetrate the fabric in clothing. Some of these parasols block as much as 95 percent of UV rays.

Seeking shade isn’t just about being cool

“The amazing thing about parasols is that they are portable and offer shade to the entire top portion of your body,” Chon says. “They cover your face, neck, shoulders and even the tops of your arms. And, unlike hats, they don’t mess up your hair.”

Chon suggests everyone seek shade between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their strongest. 

In addition to using a parasol, always wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and reapply regularly.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one million skin cancer cases are caused by overexposure to the sun, according to the American Cancer Society.

For more information on sun-safety and skin cancer prevention, visit Focused on Health.