May is was Bike Skin Cancer Awareness Month

I’ve had trouble writing this post. It’s one of those things that’s important to me but that’s difficult to make interesting. But this week I finally removed my arm warmers (hopefully for the remainder of the summer) and now I feel like it’s timely.

So. Here it goes.

I’m a skin cancer survivor.

Ok, so that’s a little misleading, I think. When you put the words “cancer” and “survivor” in that order, it tends to conjure images of chemo therapy, hair loss, weight loss and suffering. I went to a dermatologist and he said, “you have skin cancer.” Then “scraped and burned” it off – an unpleasant experience but only slightly.

My tumor was Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). When I started researching for this article (we do sometimes do research around here) I was surprised to find that BCC is the most common kind of cancer. It’s slow growing and rarely, if ever metastasizes, and is, mostly, caused by exposure to harmful UV rays.

As a cyclist I spend a lot of time in the sun. So a skin cancer diagnosis was a bit of a wake-up call. I find that I rarely get a sunburn from being on the bike. Instead, I spend most of the summer watching my arms, face and neck get darker and darker. So, sunscreen was one of those things I might use, sometimes, on a long ride, if I remembered. Sometimes I’d actually avoid sunscreen, citing all the standard excuses: it’s too greasy, it smells, it makes my hands slippery, etc.

I do a little better now. One of the many things I pack in my commute bag is sunscreen and, almost every sleeveless afternoon, I put on the recommended amount of sunscreen (2 tablespoons). And I wear a hat. And sunglasses. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better. I’ve found that I prefer “physical block” sunscreens to “chemical blocks”. The physical blocks generally contain a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – I find the lotion less greasy and less irritating.

If you can’t find a sunscreen that works for you, you can always try clothing. With summer highs in the 100s, it’s hard for me to imagine sporting sun sleeves like the ones offered by Pearl Izumi here in Sacramento, but it could be a great option for those of you lucky enough to live near the coast.

So, it’s June. The sun is out and you’re at risk. Do us a favor. Cover up.

For more information.

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  1. #1 by hnielson on June 11, 2011 - 9:33 pm

    Thanks for posting…and sharing. I always put sunscreen on when I ride (unless it’s in the winter and I’m bundeled up and it’s pouring down rain) and have for 10 years. I’ll might still get skincancer with the amount that I ride/am outside and I’ll probably keep riding my bike, just like you.

    • #2 by Michael on June 13, 2011 - 12:58 pm

      Well, I got skin cancer (probably) from my years of lifeguarding – not from cycling. But it is something I worry about now.

  2. #3 by Duane Braswell on October 20, 2011 - 8:06 pm

    Wow, I am a little late, but I understand. 3 spots with BCC were cut off, the fourth was burned off with the cold stuff. The fifth spot was Melanoma. bummer. I have huge scar, and am “clear” at this time. I found you doing searches for prep for my trip to raise awareness for skin cancer. Glad to hear May is cancer bike month. We will leave May 13. Going from Phoenix AZ to Washington DC. Will be watching your blog with that much more interest. Real kicker when they use your name and cancer in the same sentence.

    Duane Braswell

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