You Better Check Yourself
As much as we love being outside on the lake, at the beach and afield our equipment is the first thing we think about. Do we have fresh line on our reels? Are the shotguns cleaned and oiled? Is our jacket waterproof? However, one of the last things we think about is protecting ourselves from the sun’s effects on our skin. Even if we do keep some sunscreen on the boat, are we actually using it properly and truly protecting ourselves against the possibilities of skin cancer? I can honestly say that I don’t. With May being skin cancer awareness month, I wanted to educate our readers and make prevention top of mind.
Guys, this shit is real and if we want keep pursuing our passions and live long lives, we need to start doing everything we can to combat the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Gone are the days of Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil and Bain de Soleil for the St. Tropez tan. While we may think being tan is cool, being dead isn’t. Just ask your kids!
Just The Facts Man
The fact is, 20% of Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. And more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than any other forms of cancer. This means that either you or someone close to you will be diagnosed. From the Skin Cancer Foundation http://www.skincancer.org, here are some startling facts about melanoma:
• It’s estimated that the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed in 2019 will increase by 7.7 percent.
• An estimated 192,310 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019. Of those, 95,830 cases will be in situ (noninvasive), confined to the epidermis (the top layer of skin), and 96,480 cases will be invasive, penetrating the epidermis into the skin’s second layer (the dermis). Of the invasive cases, 57,220 will be men
• Between 2009 and 2019 the number of new invasive melanoma cases diagnosed annually increased by 54 percent.
• An estimated 7,230 people will die of melanoma in 2019. Of those, 4,740 will be men.
• The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun. In fact, one UK study found that about 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
• Compared with stage I melanoma patients treated within 30 days of being biopsied, those treated 30 to 59 days after biopsy have a 5 percent higher risk of dying from the disease, and those treated more than 119 days after biopsy have a 41 percent higher risk.
• Across all stages of melanoma, the average five-year survival rate in the U.S. is 92 percent. The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 98 percent. The survival rate falls to 64 percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 23 percent when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.
• On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.
• Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.
• Men age 49 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer.
You Have Health Insurance for a Reason
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Skin cancer is preventable if we simply use common sense and take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and get checked on a regular basis. I recently sat down with Courtney Gill and Kelly Wala of Westlake Dermatology https://www.westlakedermatology.com/ and got the straight dope on skin cancer prevention. According to these professionals, the most common spot that men develop skin cancer is on their backs. And since it’s the one place we can’t see, getting a professional exam is critical. With that said, early detection is the key to survival and dermatologists recommend a skin cancer screening at least once per year. It should also be noted that most health insurance covers the exam so there shouldn’t be any excuses why you don’t get checked out.
One of the things I found interesting is the most aggressive melanomas are found on the hands and feet. Consider Bob Marley actually died from a melanoma on his toe that spread to his lungs https://www.skincancer.org/news/melanoma/marley. But as outdoorsmen, fishermen, boaters and surfers our hands are as exposed as any part of our bodies which puts a premium on making sure we are covered.
SPF – Use It!
Prevention is simple and really comes down to being proactive. Since its inception in 1979, The Skin Cancer Foundation has always recommended using a sunscreen with an SPF as one important part of a complete sun protection regimen. However, sunscreen alone is not enough. Below is Westlake Dermatology’s list of common sense measures to prevent skin cancer.
• Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
• Don’t get sunburned.
• Avoid tanning, and never use UV tanning beds.
• Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
• Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day.
• For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher.
• Apply sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every hour after swimming or excessive sweating.
• Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
• See a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.
Time to Get Buff
Over the past few years SPF outdoor clothing has been gaining popularity among outdoor enthusiasts. Brands like Columbia, Huk, Pelagic and Patagonia have been leading the way in producing clothing that blocks ultraviolet rays.
When selecting clothes for sun protection, consider fabrics that have been specially treated with chemical UV absorbers, known as colorless dyes. These prevent some penetration of both UVB and UVA rays. A number of manufacturers are now making special sun-protective clothing that has been treated with a chemical sunblock during the manufacturing process. The garments are designed to cover as much of the skin as possible.
Check out the video below from Tom Rowland of Saltwater Experience on the benefits of using The Buff to protect your face, ears and neck.
You Can’t Argue with Science
New standards for sun-protective fabrics in the US were unveiled in January, 2001. UPF is similar to SPF, in that they both measure protection. Only clothes with a UPF of 15-50+ may be labeled as sun-protective. Also, like regular clothing, sun-protective clothing may lose its effectiveness if pulled too tight or stretched out, if it becomes damp or wet, or if it is washed and worn repeatedly.
While I don’t want to preach, I think it’s important to bring this subject to light. You guys read this blog because you like to spend as much time as possible out of the office and off the grid. I have some close friends that have been affected by melanoma very early in life and it was a wake-up call to me. Growing up in Florida, I thought I was invincible to the sun and getting burned and blistered was a right of passage. Now I’m fighting everyday to keep my skin healthy because of the damage I did in my teens and twenties. Do yourself a favor and make sun protection and skin cancer prevention a daily routine. As my mom used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.