Friday, July 24, 2009

Risk of Skin Cancer

There’s a lot of evidence that regular exercise reduces the risk of the usual killers in western society — heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and others. While most of us don’t exercise for this reason it’s still a nice “added feature.”

But there is still one killer that serious recreational athletes are at high risk for contracting – skin cancer. Several hours a week outdoors in the sun makes us more susceptible to developing a skin cancer or melanoma than the average couch spud.

Other factors that make skin cancer likely for those who exercise a lot are fair skin, red or blond hair, older athletes, and a history of sunburns, especially as a child. Also if you freckle after a short exposure to the sun or sunburn easily you are at greater risk.

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid long exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This means doing your workouts before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are most intense. Workout clothing should also be chosen for its sun-protective features. A tightly woven, fabric that covers the back, shoulders, and neck is best. It’s also a good idea to wear a broad-brimmed hat. If possible, exercise in a place where you can avoid sun exposure altogether, such as a gym.

In medical circles there is still some debate about whether sunscreen is effective at preventing skin cancer. Some believe it actually contributes to the incidence of this disease by making users complacent about exposure to the sun. If you use sunscreen choose a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, but still limit your sun exposure.

Fortunately, skin cancer responds well to treatment if caught early enough. Using mirrors, check your body monthly looking for changes in mole or skin lesions such as the following:

• Asymmetry. One half of the mole or lesion does not match the other half.
• Border. The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
• Color. The mole or lesion’s color is not uniform.
• Diameter. The diameter of the mole or lesion is greater than the size of a pencil eraser.

While melanoma is less common than the other types, it has greater potential for spreading throughout the body.

If you’re unsure whether your skin spot has any of these characteristics it’s a good idea to see your doctor to have it checked. In the mean time, avoid excessive sun exposure.


At July 24, 2009 3:17 PM , Blogger William in Ames said...

Older sunscreens only protect(ed) against fairly deep UV. This is called "UVB", and the SPF is based on the protection against UVB.

The jury is still out, but we are now more worried about "near UV" or "UVA" than we used to be. (This is the UV that the tanning salons will tell you is safe...)

Older sunscreens do NOT protect much against UVA, and you can't tell just from looking at the SPF, since it is defined specifically against UVB.

So, if you are shopping for sunscreens now, read the label carefully, and look for sunscreens that also claim to protect against UVA to be safest.

At July 25, 2009 12:53 AM , Blogger Drs. Cynthia and David said...

I think regular exercise helps keep sensitivity to insulin high and hence levels of insulin low, and this helps with many chronic diseases of aging.

Having adequate levels of vitamin D is helpful in preventing cancer, and enhances athletic performance too. Paradoxically, melanoma (and other cancers as well) is more prevalent at higher latitudes, where there is less sun exposure and vitamin D levels are lower. There may be some protection in younger folks at least from the deleterious effects of sun exposure due to higher vitamin D levels they get from the sun. If you wear sunscreen all the time, you won't make vitamin D either, and I've read that people are chronically deficient in the US from sun avoidance and wearing sunscreen all the time. Since the conversion to the active form D3 is less efficient in older adults, I take a supplement too, and try not to get burned. You're right that avoiding the middle of the day for exercising is best- you get some sun, but not so much that you burn.


At August 12, 2009 6:06 AM , Blogger Maestro said...

UVA is generally accepted as a major contributor to skin cancer. Since the FDA is a little lax on regulating the labeling of sunscreens, many mainstream manufacturers are listing UVA protection on their labels. However, they will not tell you how much UVA they protect against. That means they are misleading you into a false sense of security. You should look for manufacturers like Hincapie SkinDefense or Luca Critical Wavelength with the UV protection listed right on the product label. Both sport formulas that protect up to critical wavelength 372. You know you're getting superior protection from UVA. This will significantly reduce your risk of contracting skin cancer.

At August 18, 2009 8:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got diagnosed with skin cancer about 6 months ago. Had to have bits cut out of neck and face but luckily all good now. I'm fair skined & have been doing tris for about 10 years in the UK. The docs arent sure if its related but the areas did suggest exposure on neck and face.

My comment is if you have anything you're not sure of, then go get it checked out sooner rather than later as always better to be safe!


At November 20, 2009 6:18 PM , Blogger Pains Pills said...

skin cancer is a disease more difficult to tackle because the symptoms of this disease but I am very painful but there are medications that may be satisfactory to subtract against the symptoms of the disease for example I take lortab and norco which are drugs very good in these cases.


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