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.