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Thursday, January 20, 2011

PSA: Skin Cancer

I recently found out that my mom has skin cancer.

She's still waiting for biopsy results to confirm what kind of skin cancer it is, but it's most likely basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common and also the most easily treatable kind of skin cancer. My mother is a very optimistic, outgoing person who thinks that the world is nothing but rainbows and butterfly kisses, so in my recent conversations with her, she expressed no concern about the diagnosis and was making jokes about it.

In fact, after her biopsy on Monday, she didn't give it a second thought because she was chiefly concerned with studying for a test she has coming up in her flight lessons (yes, she's learning to fly, as a hobby).

While she is blithe about it, it does have me seriously thinking about my negligence with sunscreen, especially while running.

I have the sort of complexion that most often turns brown in the sun, not red. So, I have inadvertently adopted a rather careless approach to sun protection. Sure, I lather on the sunscreen for a day at the beach, but for everyday outdoor activities, including running, I mostly forgo it. Because I'm lazy.

I run year-round outdoors, and especially in the summer, I run in just shorts and a sports bra -- so, plenty of exposed skin. And it shows: By the end of the summer, I typically have very distinct tan lines. But, just because the sun is weaker in winter, and the temps are cooler, doesn't mean I should get a free pass for avoiding sunscreen.

But, I can't be the only one who's not paying attention to this. In this 2006 article, it discusses a study that demonstrated how runners are at an increased risk of skin cancer, particularly the most fatal form of it, melanoma, because of our increased outdoor time ad our forgetfulness in sunscreen application. Especially if you are training for a marathon, and you're outside for hours at a time (sweating much of that sunscreen off), you're putting yourself at considerable risk for skin damage if you're not applying sunscreen both before you run and re-applying every 2 hours while you run. In the article, it cites that only 56% of us are remembering our Coppertone.

So, while we may have hearts as strong as freight trains, we could be very susceptible to the insidious damage long-term sun damage can do to our skin.

As for me, I plan to purchase a body lotion and moisturizer that already have some sun protection in them, and then I need to set the sports-sunscreen out on my vanity's top so I remember to apply it before running. And while I feel like I have been vigilant with applying sunscreen to Norah for most outdoor activities, I would also like to get a lotion appropriate for her skin that already has some level of SPF so that I know she has at least some level of everyday protection for her skin.

Certainly, I don't think we should all scream and run for the indoor treadmills to escape the sun's rays; in contrast, a large part of my running enjoyment comes from doing it outside. However, there's no need to be reckless about our skin care. My mom's recent diagnosis has been enough to scare me into better care, and if you're not already vigilant about this, you may want to think about how you can take preventative measures to avoid a potentially fatal disease.

28 comments:

Tim F said...

I'm really sorry to hear this. I will pray that she has a 100% recovery. I lost my dad to cancer over three years ago and it is tough to have a parent go through this.

TNTcoach Ken said...

Definitely take note, we lost one of our long time running club members to complications from Melanoma. Can't even imagine what the sun down there does to people.....

Lisa said...

I pray it's easy for your mom's skin cancer to be resolved.

It's a good PSA. I'm probably more careful than most folks because I live at high altitude. Very easy to get too much sun here, putting on sunscreen year round and wearing a brimmed hat are second nature to me. But it wasn't like that when I lived in Ohio.

StephanieC said...

My mum had the same thing a few years back, and she has never ever sunbathed in her life, in fact she has always been good at covering up. I have been pretty vigilant over the last decade or more, and now take so much pride in my pale skin through out summer. Though now living in the UK will be different from living in Milwaukee with the amount of sunny warm days, i used to and still will choose my clothes wisely. Finding cool but covered clothes instead of bearing too much skin. Then i need lees sunscreen. It all helps.
I do hope that you continue to cover up, with clothes of lotion in the future :)

FAT Newkirks said...

I'm am very sorry to hear about your mother and really hope that everything turns out well. Please be careful about overusing sunscreen, though. Most experts agree that sunscreen should only be used when in very sunny conditions such as the middle 4-6 hours of a summer day. Not only does sunscreen prevent Vitamin D production, it appears that many sunscreens are themselves carcinogens. I've read many of the studies and the results are very mixed when it comes to determining the net benefits of using sunscreen regularly. Nearly everyone agrees that mild sunshine is beneficial, though.

Nobel4Lit said...

Sorry to hear about your mother's condition. I am glad she's positive, and hopefully is surrounded by lots of positivity!

I've been pretty paranoid about wearing sunscreen, particularly over the past few years or so. I've never been big on spending lots of time out in the sun until I started running long distances. Now, even when I run when it's still dark outside in the AM, I wear sunscreen on my exposed skin -- especially the face. I've even started wearing some under my makeup day-to-day.

Oh, I forgot to mention why this is... about 3 years ago, I a mole on my back shoulder got bigger. One day, I just noticed it and asked my doc, who recommended I go to a derm, who recommended a biopsy. I clearly remember him holding the mole on his fingertip, lol. Test was negative for anything, and to save myself from that kind of stuff, I guess I naturally gravitate toward sunscreen, even though I don't like the smell or concept.

I constantly have to remind my boyfriend to use sunscreen. I know he hates the smell as much as I do, and we've gotten into some spats over it. He's fine about it when it's running a marathon or going to the beach/hiking, but otherwise, he needs massive coersion.

Zoƫ said...

I'm sorry to hear about your mum. I hope everything turns out ok.

lee said...

My dad had some sort of melanoma on his nose like 15 years ago. I hope your mom is okay.

I need to pay more attention to sunscreen too. I do use a moisturizer with SPF in the morning, but that's really it. My problem, and I know this is easily solvable, is that I can't seem to find a face sunscreen that doesn't make my eyes tear up when I run.

Diana said...

Great post. I am actually going through with this with my dad. We just found out this week. Taking care of your skin is so very important especially for runner who are always outside.

Jim ... 50after40 said...

Man, really sorry about your mother - hopefully everything goes well. My wife has a huge history of skin cancer in her family, so we are always keep an eye out for it. This was a great post! Something we all need to keep in mind! Best wishes to you and your mother!

ajh said...

I hound my adult children about wearing sunscreen. Take care of yourself and your kid(s)! Don't stay indoors but wear the sunscreen. I had my own scare last year and now get checked every four months. This is from Vermont sun and lots and lots of sun exposure when I was younger. I am like the sun screen queen now and have been for years. Good luck to your mom!

Firefly's Running said...

((hugs)) I am so sorry. I am glad that she has a healthy attitude about the diagnosis. I am usually good about applying it on especially in the summer.

Carly said...

Sorry to hear about your mom's diagnosis. Thank you for the reminder....I am not always good about applying sunscreen.

karthi said...

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N.D. said...

I hope that everything is ok and turns out to be fine. I'll keep her/you in my thoughts!

It is a great reminder to wear sunscreen and protect our skin - thank you.

Lily on the Road said...

Sending well wishes to your mom, hopefully this is something that can be rectified very quickly.

Thanks too for the reminder. Even up here in freezing temps, one should slap on the sunscreen. Sun reflecting off of snow is a real hazard.

Amanda said...

Both my parents have had basal cell cancers too. I hope your mom has a total recovery. Thinking of you!!

chirunner said...

I had been so lax on the sunscreen too until my dermatologist gave me a topical cream to check for pre-cancer on my face. She expected a couple of spots -- almost my entire face reacted strongly. Since then I've done the same treatment on my neck and ears. I hardly ever run without my sunscreen now. And I love your mom's attitude. I expect she will be just fine.

BrianFlash said...

A coworker of mine was diagnosed with skin cancer three years ago. However, with her it was the rare melanoma. The disease spread and she passed away last summer at the young age of 36.

I'm not trying to be a bummer. I'm sure your mom will be just fine. But that sunscreen isn't a joke!

Adam said...

Wow, I'll be thinking of her. That is crazy!!

Running 365 said...

I'm sorry that she's going through this! My mom is also having some medical issues and it really does make you think. I know I need to do better about the sunscreen too and it makes it seem more realistic when I know you are doing it too!

Praying for your mom as she goes through this!

lifestudent said...

Sending good thoughts your moms way. I have been meaning to get into a derm to get checked and never do ... its been years now! Everyone needs to be proactive on this matter, myself included :(

runner26 said...

omg Jess, I'm so sorry to hear this. You are so right about using sunscreen and it's a good reminder for everyone. I really hope your mom is ok and that they've caught it early enough. Thoughts & prayers with you. xx

Wes said...

My mom and dad used to work like dogs in the yard. They both have had skin cancer and they have back issues. Thus my aversion to yard work :-)

I have confidence in your mother. Sounds like they caught it early, which is a good thing!

and thanks for the reminder!!

Marlene said...

SUCH an important reminder! I am also guilty of forgetting the sunscreen on a day to day basis, especially when it comes to running.

I hope everything turns out okay for your Mom.

Tanya said...

I am your age and just had a basal cell carcinoma removed last week from my forehead. I still have the stitches in from the surgery as I type. Please be careful with the running, and the family history makes you much more susceptible as well. Both my father and my grandfather have had it as well...but they got it in their 50's, not their 30's. Check your skin weekly and get in for a full body check.

Viv said...

Sorry to hear about you mom, Jess. I hope that it was caught early on and has a complete recovery. I like you an awful about sun block and will have to make a better effort. I am even terrible about the kids.

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