Thursday, July 9, 2009

Don't be dumb about the sun

Summers in Oregon typically start on July 5, but this year the temps have actually cooled after a pre-Fourth of July heat wave. I'm happy for that. I have no appetite for sun and heat like I used to. An estimated 65% of all melanomas are attributed to UV exposure, and it's safe to assume that sun exposure was a primary cause of mine. I was careless, so please learn from my mistake and save yourself a lot of heartache by being sun-safe.

This statement from the Melanoma Research Foundation is worth reading, if you're of the mind that a little dab of sunscreen is all you need to avoid the risk of skin cancer. There is no small irony in being from a place with a reputation for gray and rainy weather, and to get melanoma. Sadly, Oregonians have a higher rate of skin cancer than the national average. Too many of us suffer the misguided notion that it's OK to be out in the sun without protection--for hours and hours--on days when it actually shines. That's what I used to do. Not smart.

One of the reasons I've given up bike touring and am focusing instead on distance running is because I can better manage my sun exposure this way. I'm learning to love trail running in particular, which in western Oregon usually means running in the shade under a canopy of leaves. Running is also more efficient, taking about a third as long as cycling for an equivalent cardiovascular workout. Strenuous exercise of any type is reported to have a beneficial effect on the immune system, which does battle with whatever cancer cells there may be in my body. I may have started to run several years ago to see what I could accomplish, but I do it today just to make sure there's a tomorrow.


wags said...

I'm often thankful that I lived in the Northwest for 12 of my 56 years--most of them when I was young and might have otherwise baked on the beaches of SoCal. I figure I've spared myself considerable direct sun exposure.

Anonymous said...

I too have no desire to be in out in the sun anymore. Like beer, I had too much of it in my 20's and 30's. I have a lot of skin sun damage for years playing on/in the snow and water. Now I find shade as fast as I can when outside and wear a big hat. Summer used to be my favorite season which of course was tied to my teaching career. Give me a cozy fire and wool sweater any day over roasting in the sun. Thanks Peter for your blog and reminders for good health.

Doug said...

oops, that last one was me : )