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How bamboo can help you prevent skin cancer

Friday 20 September, 2013 by Justine

When I lived in Japan, I was told that if I was ever caught in a "taifun" (typhoon), run to my nearest bamboo grove, grab hold of some bamboo and hang on for dear life. It seems bamboo is deeply rooted, very flexible and very strong! I'm not sure if the advice was accurate and it is with pleasure I declare I never had to test the theory.   

It turns out bamboo is not only typhoon-proof but you can also build with it, decorate with it, make musical instruments from it, eat it, use it to treat infections, write on it and wear it. Oh, and did I mention it's UV proof too? A very versatile crop. It seems bamboo fabrics have great sun protective properties with a high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). Who knew? Dr Tarannum Afrin from Deakin University in Geelong did. Along with her colleagues, Tarannum has done extensive research that showed just how sun protective bamboo fabrics can be.  

Here comes the science bit: "When you take the bamboo plant and make fibre out of it in an economic and eco-friendly manner there is also a challenge in retaining the structure of the bamboo which gives it its special properties. We have developed a process that allows us to process the plant into a fibre in an environmentally friendly way while retaining the UV blocking wicking and anti-bacterial properties," said Tarannum. 

So there you have it – keep an eye out for bamboo clothing this summer (make sure it is the real deal bamboo material and not just some fake wannabe) and enjoy peace of mind knowing you are being SunSmart and environmentally friendly!  

But remember, there is more to sun protection than bamboo! When choosing clothing for sun protection, remember: 

  • Try to cover as much skin as possible – long pants and shirts with a collar and long sleeves are best.
  • Whatever material you choose make sure it's a light weight, closely woven material.
  • Dark colours of the same material absorb more UV and are therefore more protective.
  • Loose fitting clothing will be cooler in the heat.
  • Still some skin peeking through? Add a generous dab of SPF30 or higher broad spectrum sunscreen to any parts of skin not covered with clothing including your face, neck and ears.
  • Add a wide brimmed hat that shades those delicate areas of the face, slide on some sunglasses and look for a shady spot.
  • Check the sun protection times at sunsmart.com.au or download the free SunSmart smartphone app so you know when to up-style your bamboo get-up with SPF, sunnies, a hat and shade.

Da-dah ... You may not be ready for a typhoon but you will be ready for the onslaught of the sun's powerful UV rays. 

To find out more about the research, visit http://www.deakin.edu.au/research/stories/2011/05/30/bamboo-research-a-catalyst-for-change

For more information about using clothing to protect your skin from UV exposure, download our Sun Protective Clothing information sheet.

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