I’ve had a small patch on my forehead for a while now which has been a little sore from time-to-time. There was nothing visible really, and I thought nothing of it, as I put it down to friction where I’m continuously wiping sweat away whilst out training. However, the patch has now got a little worse, and Leigh prompted me to mention it to the doctor as I was going to see him about my foot anyway.
It was a good thing I did show the doctor as he recognised the patch as sun damage, and diagnosed ‘actinic keratosis’. The definition of actinic keratosis is a scaly or crusty bump that forms on the skin surface. They can also be called ‘solar keratosis’ or ‘sun spots’ or even ‘precancerous spots’.
The doc prescribed some cream which is to dry up the patch so that the skin heals. Hopefully we caught it early enough so that we can get rid of it, as this is a precancerous condition and left untreated, especially with ongoing exposure to sun, these patches can develop into skin cancer.
The message of the story folks is to ‘always wear sunscreen’! You may put sun lotion on when you’re sunbathing, but this shows that it’s also important to protect your skin when out and about. Even if the weather is not particularly sunny, the sun’s rays can penetrate cloud, and can bounce off snow, sand and other reflective surfaces.
Sun damage to the skin accumulates over time. It is lifetime sun exposure, not recent sun-tanning that adds to your risk. Up to 80% of sun damage is thought to occur before the age of 18. If you have fair skin, blonde or red hair, and pale eyes you are at the greatest risk, but even those with darker complexions are not immune.
It’s worth a trip to the doc if you notice any patches developing as the earlier caught the better. The patch may itch or produce a prickling or tender sensation, especially after being in the sun.
I’ve been guilty of not using sun protection even when out in the sun, because lets face it, it is a faff to put on, it gets on your clothes, and it rubs off anyway. Well, we’ve recently found a great sun lotion that solves these problems nicely. It’s called Ultrasun and you only need to apply it once and it stays put all day so there’s no excuse any more. There’s a range of different choices and I use the sports formula. It’s not greasy and rubs in well, is resistant to water, sweat, and friction and has a high protection factor so you can apply and forget it. The sports formula does allow tanning but Leigh uses the sun-block version as she’s really prone to burn.
I used the sports formula when I did the Austria Ironman when I was out in blazing sun for hours. Our team top was sleeveless, and even with sun lotion on, several of the others ended up with badly burned shoulders. I did tan but didn’t burn and was grateful that the Ultrasun had protected me.
Check it out: ultrasun