A woman in a white hat and shirt holds a tennis racquet.

Hats Off to Tennis Players Who Wear Hats

As a tennis fanatic, I am so happy to see Wimbledon back in full swing after its cancellation last year. The venerable grass-court tournament – lawn tennis officially – is, as I write this, in the middle of its run from June 28 through July 11. It is held in an elegant suburb of London at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. The players all wear their tennis whites, and everything is so so civilized.

Not just watching the tennis match

When you are as much of a fan as I am, you watch more than the tennis. What are the players wearing? What do they say in their post-match interview? What racquet are they using? And, importantly to me, how many are wearing a hat?

I've noticed those who wear hats

OK, so, the last question is not on the top of everyone’s mind, but as someone who has had two squamous cell skin cancers on the top of my head, it’s something I noticed. We'll circle back to tennis in a minute but as an update, I recently got a biopsy that came back positive for squamous cell cancer on my scalp.

I haven't always worn a hat

This is my second one. A friend said, “but you always wear a hat!” Back in my lifeguarding, sunbathing days, I’m sure I didn’t wear a hat. It’s hard to say when the damage was done. Now I don’t always wear a hat, though I try to do it most of the time. And the other factors that I have previously described – my stem cell transplants and prednisone intake – also play a role.

Some wear hats, some don't

In any case, I noticed that among the female players, number one seed Ashleigh Barty, a 25-year-old Australian, wears a hat. She is said to dislike wearing dresses, so the hat looks cute with the less formal shirt and skirt. But few other female players wear hats, opting for visors instead. Many, but not all, men wear a hat. Today I was watching what they call “the round of 16” match between the elegant Swiss legend, Roger Federer, and his Italian challenger, Lorenzo Sonego. Neither wore a hat, opting for a white headband instead. (Federer, possibly the world’s most perfect man, and at 39 the oldest in tennis, won in three sets.)

Your hair doesn't fully protect your head

You might think that just the hair on your head protects you. Or maybe like me you never really thought about it. Skin cancers on the scalp are not common, but they do exist, and, in fact, about 13 percent of skin cancers are on the scalp.1 Only about 1 to 2 percent of those are malignant (melanoma), but those are more lethal than other melanomas.2

Melanoma on the scalp can spread to the brain

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports, “A 2014 study found that melanomas on the scalp have a much higher incidence of spreading to the brain (12.7 percent within five years after diagnosis) than those elsewhere on the head and neck (6.7 percent), or on the trunk or limbs (4.7 percent).”3 Why are these more lethal? “One reason may very well be a delay in diagnosis because of their location, in an area usually hidden by hair… and the biology of the melanoma itself or the environment of the scalp may play a role,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

I found my squamous cell on my head

I found mine due to a little raised area that I was picking at. Obviously, I couldn’t see it, but I asked my dermatologist to take a look. She did a biopsy and referred me, again, for the umpteenth time, to Mohs surgery.

I should probably wear a better hat

I have a nice sun protection had that I wear while walking or gardening. For running and playing tennis, I wear a hat. But I must admit it is probably not the best. It has the logo of the USTA – United States Tennis Association – of which I am a member. I have two of them; my friend and I got them at USTA Appreciation Day at the US Open Tennis Tournament, and I have a sentimental attachment to them. One is gray and one white, also not the best colors because darker colors give more protection.

My UPF hat is the way to go

I have a floppy UPF hat that I should wear while playing tennis. I have done it a few times, but it feels so goofy that it hurts my game. I should get over myself and wear it, or upgrade to a baseball-style UPF hat. For now, though, a hat is better than no hat.

Do you wear a hat to protect your head and scalp?

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