Isn’t it just like Mother Nature to turn up the heat just in time for the first weeks of school? In my neck of the woods, heat indices kissed 100 degrees or more almost every day last week.
I’m not particularly fond of 90-plus degree days with 90-plus percentage humidity, especially when outdoor chores include a lot of physical activity with no shade and no breeze. Not only are those conditions uncomfortable, they can be quite dangerous. Heat stroke, dehydration, and sunburn are often associated with the “dog days” of summer. But folks, exposure to the sun, whether the temperature is 95 degrees or 75 degrees or even 35 degrees can still cause sunburn and set the stage for more serious health problems.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America defines Melanoma as a form of cancer that begins in melanocytes, specialized cells in the skin that produce the brown pigment known as melanin. These are the cells that darken when exposed to the sun, a protective response to protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
Those at high-risk for developing skin cancer include farmers and others who work outdoors. I cannot count the number of times I have visited with farmers whose wrists and hands appear gnarled with the scars from surgery to remove skin cancer. We all know someone who has had cancer or pre-cancerous growths removed from their face, ears, neck or arms.
As a teen-ager and in my early twenties, I wasn’t exactly a sun-worshipper, but if I was going to be mowing or raking hay or any other outdoor chore that would allow me the opportunity to improve my suntan, chances are, I was going to be wearing a bathing suit top, and slathered in a low-SPF suntan oil. I was never much for just lying in the sun, but the thought of protecting myself from the ultraviolet light that gave me such a “healthy glow” never crossed my mind.
Although I enjoy being outdoors and there is always plenty of outside work to do on the farm, I now apply sunscreen if I’m going to be in the sun.
Melanoma is highly curable if caught early, but is much more likely than other forms of skin cancer to spread if left untreated.
My friend and co-worker Charlie Peters was diagnosed with Melanoma 2 years ago. After a year of treatment, his tests came back clear. Three months later, the report was much different. Nearly all of his major organs were under attack. He fought hard for more than 7 months, but lost the battle. I said goodbye last week to one of the best people I have ever known. I don’t know that 50 SPF sunscreen would have saved him, but if there is even a slight chance that one of you reading this might avoid the pain my friend endured, it seems silly not to try.