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Sunny Days and The Big C

Sunny Days and The Big C

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Sunny Days and The Big C

Page Type: Article

Object Title: Sunny Days and The Big C

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering, Ice Climbing, Aid Climbing, Big Wall, Mixed, Scrambling, Via Ferrata, Canyoneering, Skiing


Page By: splattski

Created/Edited: Feb 27, 2010 / Jun 23, 2011

Object ID: 600764

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Page Score: 97.19%  - 66 Votes 

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Sunny Days and the Great Outdoors

“It was a gorgeous, sunny day.”
How many trip reports have you read that said something similar? How many of your own trips included a day like that?  
Big hat AND a nose guard. Sun protection on Denali.
Big hats AND nose guards. Sunny day on Denali, 2009 (that's me in the middle)

If you have been lucky enough to be out in the mountains to enjoy as many gorgeous, sunny days as I have, then you should read this article and think seriously about how the sun affects your health.

I’ve been active in outdoor sports my entire life. I learned to ski at age 9. I summited my first glaciated peak at 14. I climbed Mt. Rainier at 17. I worked two years as a Field Technician for the Forest Service. By the age of 20, I was also a bike racer, riding 250-350 miles per week in the summer. During the winter I was a cross-country ski racer. I was and continue to be a mountaineer and an athlete (although these days, an old fat one), and I was outside a lot.

The Big C

I’m now 54. That may seem really old to you. Don’t let that fool you, because you might be lucky enough to be 54 someday yourself. But here’s the deal and why I’m telling you all this. I loved being outdoors, but that may have increased my risk of cancer because I seldom if ever used sunscreen. Yes, cancer. About two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with skin cancer, what doctors call a malignant melanoma.

Risk Factors

In his article A Climber’s Guide to Prevention of Sun Damage, SummitPost member FlatheadNative lists some of the things that might put you at higher risk of having skin cancer some day:
• Fair skin, red or blond hair
• Light-colored eyes
• Sunburns
• Many moles, freckles, or birthmarks
• Working or playing outside
• Lots of sun exposure, especially a lot as a child
• Serious sunburn
• Family members with skin cancer
• Tanning in the sun or with a sunlamp

In addition to these risk factors, the America Cancer Society's brochure on malignant melanoma mentions as additional risks:
• Being over 50
• Already had melanoma or another skin cancer,
• A weakened immune system

I had or have blue eyes, blistering sunburns as a child, a ton of moles, play outside, and am over 50. In my later years I’ve been more careful about big hats and sunscreen, but the damage was already done.

Getting the Word Out

Stitches after biopsy
What's left of an 1/8" (3mm) mole

Many of the people I have climbed with have either read about or heard about my good friend Brian Mahon. Brian is a Physician’s Assistant who’s best friend, Jeff, died of kidney cancer. As Jeff lay dying in the hospital, Brian made a promise to him to get the word out about cancer.
When later I met Brian, it was to participate in what we call the Celebration of Life. The point of the Celebration is to raise awareness of men's cancer. You can read the full story behind the Celebration here along with a story about the 2002 Celebration.

My Cancer

Through my association and friendship with Brian, I learned a lot about cancer. Fortunately, I learned the ABCDs of skin cancer detection, because in my annual physical I asked my doc about a suspicious mole on my shoulder (and as Brian would point out if he was here, it didn't look anything like Cindy Crawford's mole).
My doc removed the mole the next day and the biopsy report came back that afternoon: malignant melanoma.
So about a week later I had an appointment with a dermatologist, who did a more complete skin removal. Fortunately for me, we caught it really early and it is 100% gone. And chicks dig scars.
I'm not normally one to share this kind of thing, but if it can save you some grief, my shirt is off. The moral of the story: Learn how to take care of yourself and then do so.

What You Should Do

You might consider helping Brian fulfill his promise:
• First, by becoming informed and taking care of yourself. In this article we're discussing skin cancer, so learn the ABCDs and apply sun screen when you are outside. As the American Cancer Society points out, don't just dab a bit on. Fill the palm of your hand and paint it on. 
The right way to apply sunscreen
Don't dab. Fill your palm and paint it on. Early on a sunny day on Mt. Adams

• Second, spread the word- either by telling the Celebration story (and if you have one, add your personal tale), or helping directly. Check out Brian's free MANual and send one to a friend (Note: yes, there is a shipping and handling charge. You shouldn't expect the guy to pay when he is doing you a solid).


Big hat AND a nose guard. Sun protection on Denali.The right way to apply sunscreenStitches after biopsy


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 41-47 of 47 « PREV 1 2 3 NEXT »

Bark EaterThanks

Bark Eater

Voted 10/10

Thanks for the well-written article and reminder to schedule my annual skin cancer check...which is going on two years. I'm calling up for the appointment now!
Posted Mar 12, 2010 2:45 pm

dadndaveOne more thing....


Hasn't voted

Sun reflects off snow (and water and other reflective surfaces)

I was once dumb enough to shave off a beard (that I had for about two years prior) the day before setting off on a cross-country ski trip. I wore a hat as always and put sunscreen on (I have a fair skin so I knew the drill)but stupidly overlooked putting sunscreen under my chin. Spent the night in a hut unable to sleep because of the pain....
Posted Mar 13, 2010 3:01 am

splattskiRe: One more thing....


Hasn't voted

Yep, it'll find any spot you forgot. Murphy probably had a law for that.
Posted Jun 2, 2010 5:03 pm

MajesticHats that block harmful rays

Hasn't voted

It is very important these days to wear brimmed big hats where the material blocks more than 97.5% of UV rays and has a UPF 50+
Posted Sep 5, 2010 3:19 pm

splattskiRe: Hats that block harmful rays


Hasn't voted

True, that.
I think the picture on the page shows a pretty good assortment that would satisfy most high-altitude fashionistas.
Posted Sep 7, 2010 4:29 pm

markhallamGreat article!


Voted 10/10

Hi Splattski, thanks for the vote on my Expedition Medicine Article. As you will have seen, I have included UV damage & prevention, but haven't gone into detail on long term effects. Your article is very pertinent and fills in some gaps in mine - have taken the liberty of linking the two. Glad to hear you got your MM sorted out at such an early stage.
Cheers, Mark
Posted Nov 3, 2010 9:10 am

splattskiRe: Great article!


Hasn't voted

Wow! I'm flattered. Thanks for including/linking.
I appreciated your article- I haven't had the pleasure of doing many expeditions, but was fortunate to have great resources for my 09 Denali trip. My resources include a couple Doc climbing buddies, including BoiseDoc here on SP. Your article will be a real asset for those not fortunate enough to have hours of free medical advice during long ascents ;-)
Posted Nov 3, 2010 10:19 pm

Viewing: 41-47 of 47 « PREV 1 2 3 NEXT »