22 Feb My Personal Exposure to Sun and Protection
One of my greatest pleasures in winter months is sitting by the fire and reading. My sense of cozy, wintery wellbeing has been shaken by February temperatures in Oklahoma City in the 80’s, daffodils in bloom, and a garden that is awakening and in need of tending. My wintertime respite has been reduced to a dream.
Imagine my further pique upon discovering a wee pre-cancer on my pasty white skin! How can this have happened to one as sun adverse, shade seeking, and protected as I?
I am going through a checklist to make certain that I take even more precaution in the great outdoors that is my playground. Here’s a bit of what a dermatologist sun protection routine looks like:
- Daily I slather myself in zinc oxide/titanium dioxide containing sunscreens – face, neck, backs of hands, and forearms.
- I prefer long sleeves and never wear shorts.
- I walk on the shaded side of the street.
- I try not to be caught without a broad brimmed hat and polarized sunglasses.
- I avoid midday sun.
- When gardening I dress in the functional equivalent of a hazmat suit and have been known to plant by moonlight.
Heavens, I am a dermatologist! How can this be a precancer on my lip?
How indeed? Go back to childhood and young adulthood. I grew up in the vast outdoors of the Rocky Mountain west in a time when children were sent out to play from sunrise to sundown. I swam, played tennis, and fished in the summers and skied my heart out in the winters. I remember zinc oxide on my nose and never used baby oil or reflectors to enhance the effects of the sun’s rays, but there was no such thing as sunscreen.
So, even for the sun-adverse dermatologist there is a logical explanation for cumulative sun damage that leads to aging of the skin, textural and pigment changes associated with sun damage, and the development of precancerous lesions that evolve into cancers if not treated. Clean living for 3 or 4 decades hasn’t provided complete immunity from the perils of too much ultraviolet light.
Can I improve upon my daily habits? I suspect I get less than stellar marks in protecting myself with a broad brimmed hat when running errands, driving from one destination to another, and making quick dashes between car and buildings. I am not prepared to dwell in a root cellar, but I can further limit exposure of my skin to sun.
I can also find time to avail my skin to the rejuvenating effects of the PicoSure laser. I can treat my own hands and arms, but will need some assistance with face, neck, and anterior chest. A plan is born – first rid myself of the precancer then improve overall cutaneous health with PicoSure.