This weekend’s 60-degree weather brought the first short-sleeved run of 2013! I wanted to feel every ounce of sun possible, so I left the hat and sunglasses at home. Rocking the bare arms felt soooo right.
But it can be so wrong.
It’s spring now. And before we know it, it’ll be summer. The sun will shine brighter, the mercury will rise, and the layers will come off.
Running and cycling are about to get sexy again. Very sexy.
But before they do, and before you do, please watch this video. It could save your life. Or your training partner’s life. Or your child’s life.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is its leading cause. It’s NOT the kind that can be simply “cut out.” It’s the kind that spreads to your liver and your lungs. It’s the kind that takes lives. Young lives.
But there is a lot that you can do to prevent melanoma.
Below, find a list of tips for melanoma prevention, modified for the endurance athlete.
- Avoid midday sun. The doctors recommend avoiding midday sun. Whenever possible, get in your long ride or run on the early side to avoid exposure when the sun’s rays are strongest (10am-4pm), even when the sky is cloudy. (Clouds offer little protection from damaging rays.) For those training for ultra-marathons or IRONMAN-distance events, rides/runs/bricks will inevitably spill into that sun window. Simply minimize the spillage by starting as early as possible.
- Choose shade. For those really long rides that spill heavily into or entirely span that 10am-4pm midday sun window, choose shady routes whenever possible.
- Wear protective gear. Clothes don’t wash off like sunscreen. Look for gear that provides an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40-50+. As sexy as a tank top or sportbra may be, opt for the running shirt or cycling jersey that covers your shoulders in that 10am-4pm window. Choose sleeves such as the Zoot Ultra Icefill Arm Coolers and, in addition to blocking UV rays, you’ll cool off with Zoot’s moisture-activated technology. Sunglasses are also an essential part of protective gear. Melanoma can develop on the eye as well.
- Apply Legit Sunblock. Sunscreen should be used in addition to, and not instead of the tips above. And it should be applied year-round. Use a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. (I’d go for 50+.) Apply it generously, and reapply throughout periods of heavy perspiration. (If you sweat like I do, reapply it every hour.) Use a generous amount; this is not the place to trim triathlon expenses. Big white sunblock streaks are sexy. Own it.
- Avoid tanning beds. Obvio. Even if you want to look sexy in a strapless dress. Melanoma is not sexy. Pick a different dress.
- Become familiar with your skin so you’ll notice changes. Yep, I am recommending that you look at yourself naked in the mirror. Frequently. If you have a naked partner, work a skin examination into your alone time. Become familiar with what your skin (or your partner’s skin) normally looks like. This way, you are more likely to notice any skin changes. Examine your face, neck, ears, scalp, chest, trunk and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area and between your buttocks. (There are a small number of melanoma cases that are not caused by UV exposure.) If you notice any moles that are asymmetrical or evolving or ones with notched or scalloped borders, show your doctor.
Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before the cancer has spread. Melanoma can be treated successfully if it is detected early.
Please protect yourself and please share this with your training partners.