Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cover Up Against Skin Cancer

My sun hat arrived in the mail today. It's something that I'll be wearing whenever I'm outside during daylight hours. It's a special hat in that it has  a 50+ sun protection factor, or SPF.
Wearing my new sun hat

You've probably seen SPF numbers on suntan lotion/sunscreen and perhaps some clothing accessories. The higher the number, the better protection you have against the sun's damaging ultra-violet rays.

A couple years ago I had a skin cancer spot (basal cell carcinoma) removed from my face. Since then, I've returned to the dermatologist every six months to have it checked while also having some precancerous lesions taken off my hands, face and back with liquid nitrogen. 

A lot of folks develop skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It's the most common from of cancer, with more than 2 million people diagnosed annually, and one in five will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. 

There's no doubt that my skin cancer and the precancerous lesions are product of being in the sun too long when I was younger, soaking up the sun at the beach, playing tennis and other sports, and other outdoor activities.  Needless to say, I've had my share of sunburned skin from not covering up properly and failing to wear sunscreen.

Quite frankly, I don't recall sunscreen back in the 1960s and '70s. Most of us were trying to get those deep, golden tans.  

The effects of sun-damaged skin can show up early or late in one's life. I have two friends who have similar skin cancer in about the same place as I do -- one loves the beach and the other was an avid golfer. And they were about the same age as I was when it was diagnosed and removed. 

I suppose the point I want to make here is two-fold. For you younger folks, don't be a sun worshiper. Use sunscreen and wear clothing that will protect you from the sun's harmful rays. And that includes sunglasses as well to protect your eyes. 

For older folks, use sunscreen and moisturizers to keep your skin from getting too dry. And if you see something on your skin that looks a bit funny, rough or discolored, visit a dermatologist and get it checked out and possibly removed before it gets any worse. Better safe than sorry.

Getting back to head gear, remember that while baseball-type caps can help the top of your head, they don't provide protection for your ears. I have a lot of ball caps, but I now wear them for after the sun goes down. I have been wearing straw hats the past few years while mowing the lawn, but they don't provide maximum protection.

Also, visit websites such as the American Cancer Society and Skin Cancer Foundation to learn more about skin cancer. 

Until the next time... 


  1. A very long time ago I used to drive boats in the south of France, and being young and knowing everything I never used sun tan oil. After one season I was brown as a nut. It all stopped when a doctor removed something from my shoulder and told me something I didn't know. You don't have to be the south of France. Even mild sun can do the same damage. These days I always use factor 50. I'm hoping I stopped being so stupid in time. I also own a large number of hats as well.

  2. Good for you, Roger. As we both know, sun damage can hit a person 20 to 30 years later. That's what young folks need to understand. Also, the sun can can wrinkling from the dry skin. Thanks for your input.