Photo courtesy Sun Ports

Summer is just around the corner and young and old will be coming to aquatics facilities to beat the heat. In addition, lifeguards and aquatics staffs will be enduring countless hours of midday sun. That’s why “screen the sun, keep the fun” should be on the minds of operators.

Heading outdoors without adequate sun protection can lead to a sunburn that lingers long after the outdoor fun has ended. Sunburns are known to have a cumulative effect and can lead to future skin cancers, including melanoma.

Currently, more than 1 million people in the United States develop skin cancer each year, and approximately 10,000 die from it annually, according to the American Cancer Society. Simply put, the disease kills more than one person per hour nationwide.

A common form of skin cancer usually seen in people over 50 years old now is being found in a younger group, including teens and those in their 20s, states the American Dermatology Association. Doctors nationwide have been troubled by what they see as the growing incidence of melanoma among younger patients.

The dramatic increase in the incidence of skin cancer has highlighted the need to protect the public, particularly children, from harmful sun exposure. Outdoor activities, especially during summer, result in a significant amount of sun exposure. Research indicates that most people receive up to 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure during their first 18 years. Just one severe sunburn during childhood may double the risk of developing melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of cancer, later in life, according to the American Cancer Society, American Academy of Dermatology, and AMC Cancer Research Center.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays appears to be the most important environmental factor involved in the development of skin cancer. It’s also one of the most preventable types of cancer. When used consistently, sun-protective practices can prevent skin cancer and help save the lives of your staff and visitors. That’s why more and more operators are making shade structures a central part of their facilities.

Permanent fabric shade structures can be designed in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Tensioned fabric can be twisted, overlapped and angled into a virtually limitless array of forms and color combinations. A number of overlapping sails can create an attractive accent and shaded shelter. Structures can be customized to either echo the existing aquatic equipment for the sake of continuity or to establish a unique identity.

What’s more, synthetic materials such as polyethylene mesh, used in most fabric structures, block up to 96 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays. The latest materials offer a water-resistant feature, while engineering improvements enable them to bear significant wind or snow loads. The shade fabric also “breathes,” creating air movement that reduces temperatures beneath the structures as much as 30 percent.

The airiness, the soft diffused light and eye-popping designs — as well as the affordability of being 35 percent to 45 percent less than their solid-roofed counterparts — make this a top option. These days, facilities can select from a wide range of function and forms with a rainbow of hues to dress up their venues — and protect against skin cancer.