I’ve paying close attention to my body, looking for tell-a-tale signs. In those places where I haven’t been able to inspect myself, I’ve done what my doctor recommend and had “the procedure” (colonoscopy). But, I always kinda figured that my largest risk would be from skin cancer. For three summers in my late teens I was a lifeguard at a state park beach in my “home” state of Indiana—lots of sun exposure. If that wasn’t enough, I did some work on neighbors’ farms; worked one summer as a hod carrier for a masonry contractor; Then there were the tours of duty in the navy that took me to far away places–places that I’d love to return to with my sea kayak; and, for the last 16 years I’ve been an avid sea kayaker. So, there’s been a lot of sun exposure in my life.
How appropriate that in the current (February) edition of Sea Kayaker there’s an article on avoiding heat injuries, which also discusses sun exposure. While the author of the article includes sun exposure in his discussion of “heat” injuries, it’s actually the exposure to the radiation from the sun’s ultraviolet rays that causes the damage to our skin. The author does give a good description of UV radiation and its effect on our skin, but he leaves the impression that it’s only a summer time issue. My mentioning of this point, is that our skin is exposed to this radiation year-round, not just in the warm weather months, though it is more intense in the summer months.
In these later years I’ve been pretty diligent about applying the sunscreen, and wearing a hat! I’ve been applying a daily dose of skin moisturizer containing SPF 15 sunscreen on my face, neck, ears, and head—if it is above the shoulders it gets Lubriderm moisturizer with SPF 15 sunscreen—365 days a year! However, all of this couldn’t undo the damage previously done.
About 2 months ago I felt a spot on my head—it had a dry scaly feel to it. Then a few days latter, I noticed another spot in the same area—a bit of a bump that was a different color than I was used to. Hmmmmm. . . . time to do some research (on the web of course), and make an appointment with my primary care physical. He then referred me to a dermatologist. The dermatologist did a full body inspection and came back to my head. Discussing with me his findings, he gave me the option of treatment now for the “pre-cancerous” spots, or wait until my next appointment. Why wait? So, with a device that looked more like a blowtorch than a medical instrument, he began to apply liquid nitrogen to several spots on my head. Other than the noise, and a brief “ice cream headache”, nothing to it. The photo above is one day post-treatment. It’s now two weeks post treatment, and four weeks until my follow-up appointment. The treated areas are still red, but have healed nicely. And, I’m continuing my visual exams—monthly is what my doctor recommended, but I keep a more frequent watch than that. And, I will continue to use the SPF 15, and reapply every 2 to 3 hours when in the sun as the chemicals breakdown and the protection weakens.
Yes, I practice safe sun and I hope you do as well!