By the time you read this, our “summer” in the Lowcountry will be almost half over. It’s been a brutally hot one, too, albeit with intermittent rain showers nearly every afternoon.

So hot, in fact, that I decided to retire my entire wardrobe of baseball-style tennis caps and replace them with full brimmed, fedora types.

The reason? Better sun protection and keeping my ears from turning to burnt bacon.

Granted, I probably spend a lot more time outdoors than many of you. But the sun, an equal opportunity skin scorcher, puts out heat and UV rays on a continual basis, making everyone at risk to overexposure.

Now that summer is in full swing, I thought this would be a good time to provide some input regarding sun protection.

The Skin Cancer Foundation cites 5 million people are treated annually for skin cancer. And, more new cases are reported annually than breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer combined.

Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate by age; pediatric melanoma has had an average increase of 2 percent per year, as shown by a study done between 1973 and 2009.

Since the sheer nature of our sport is to play outdoors, using sunscreen is a must to help prevent the occurrence of skin cancer.

Here are some suggestions about how to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Sunscreen: Use broad spectrum (UVA and UVB), water resistant SPF (sun protection factor) 30, which blocks 97 percent of UV rays. SPF 50 is also suggested (blocks 98 percent of UV rays). Apply 30 minutes before exposure, reapply every 2 hours.

Clothing: Look for clothes with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 50 and above. If the fabric label says “SPF,” it is not broad spectrum protection.

Many tennis apparel makers offer a variety of clothing and accessories with high UPF factors. Consider wearing wide brimmed hats (also available with UPF ratings).

Baseball type caps aren’t designed to protect ears and the back of the neck. These two areas are extremely vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays, so don’t overlook them.

Sunglasses (my opinion on this subject): No matter what, sunglasses that are UV rated should be mandatory when you’re out in the sun.

I know many of the touring pros don’t wear them, but consider this: the damage done to your eyes by the sun is irreversible, and we do live in a very sunny environment.

Protect your eyes and you’ll be grateful way beyond the reaches of the tennis courts.

Although I’m bringing this subject up in the “good old summertime,” I encourage you to make it a year round habit.

The sun’s UV rays are on the job, affecting us all year long. Besides, a new wardrobe of hats is OK, too.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides custom-hybrid racquet service in the Bluffton- Hilton Head Island area. lwmarino@hotmail.com