Summer hasn’t officially arrived and we’ve had close to one-hundred-degree days, with more sun and warmer weather ahead.
For those of us who’ve suffered through the long cold winter, a warm sunny day gets people outside in the sun.
When I was growing up as a kid in Watertown, South Dakota, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of concern about skin protection and skin cancer, as we ran around in shorts with no shirt or shoes.
Sure, we became sunburned, that’s when my MOTHER and GRANDMA would bring out the vinegar and apply it to the burn, which eventually stopped the sunburn pain, but the pain of the vinegar on the skin was many times worse than the sunburn.
But as we became older, skin cancer is more of a concern, with skin cancer was on the rise and if I’d paid attention to what was written and said about protecting oneself from the sun, I could have avoided some pain and surgery.
Way too much of anything isn’t good, this is especially true as the sun gets higher in the sky, spending too much time in the sun can be fatal.
Most folks, want to have a nice tan, there’s a very thin line when it comes to getting a tan and developing skin cancer.
We all need to take certain precautions, as getting too much sun can turn into a life-changing event.
It’s not that hard to figure out, if you get too much sun, it can and will lead to skin cancer!
Some folks think that skin cancer is something others get, not worrying about it, as it will never happen to them.
We all need to be aware of skin cancer, as it can happen to anyone at any age and we all should know what we need to do, to prevent it.
When you hear the word cancer, it’ll scare you to death, literally. That was the first thing that came to mind when I was told I had skin cancer.
I can remember it vividly, I’d gone in for an annual Veteran's Administration (V.A.) physical and thought I was home free when a VA dermatologist, who watched my television series stopped in to talk with my doctor.
He asked if there was anything he could do for me, I mentioned that there was a spot on my lip that had been there for a while, not a big spot, anything that hurt, just a spot that would break open from time to time.
He looked at it, talked with my doctor and told me he thought it was “Cancer”.
Nah, that couldn’t be right, he must be wrong, as it’s been there forever, since I was in Viet Nam, never really hurt and really had not gotten any larger, at least on the outside.
There was no doubt in my mind that he had made a mistake, but when he ordered a biopsy the very next week, that’s when I really started to worry.
It just couldn’t be, as I thought that I had led a pretty clean life, never really doing a whole lot of things wrong, treated people the way I wanted to be treated, it couldn’t be happening to me.
It had come and gone since 1971 when I was in the Army serving in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam. During an assault on our camp and our bunker, where I ended up with shrapnel in my hands and face. It was no big deal, the metal in my lip burnt a little, and I just pulled it out, and after the assault, had a medic look at it, he cleaned and bandaged the wounds, gave me a couple of pills and I went back to duty, never thinking much of it again.
When the dermatologist asked how long it’d been there, I told him thirty years, he became extremely concerned, as did I when he told the male nurse he wanted it biopsied within the next week or so.
Of course, my first thoughts were, I must have not heard him right, as my hearing is not the best, so I asked him to repeat it, the next words out of his mouth were “Cancer” and we’d better get a biopsy on it.
After the biopsy, I spent the next few weeks concerned about what the results might be.
When the tests came in, the V.A. informed me it was Melanoma cancer, the bad stuff, and that it looked like Melanoma, I’d waited way to long, as Melanoma is the skin cancer that spreads out throughout the body and it didn’t look good for me.
The V.A. made several appointments for me with a plastic surgeon, who told me the only way to see how far it had spread was to keep cutting on my face until there were no signs of the cancer.
I was worried, in my forties then and thought there were many things I would like to have accomplished before leaving this world.
The surgeon and my V.A. doctor set up the surgery in Sioux Falls V.A. and when it came time for the surgery, my wife drove me to the V.A., where they got me prepared and rolled me into the operating room.
I don’t recall how long I was in there, but once I came out of it, the surgeon said, that he thought the diagnosis may have been wrong and it may not be Melanoma and that it could instead Squamous cell cancer and they thought they’d gotten all of it and starched my lip over the cut, which should heal nicely.
Once I heard back that it was Squamous Cell cancer, talk about being relieved, and today many years later, the cancer has not come back, I do have a place where the cancer was, a small indentation below my lip, and after the surgery became wiser about how I prepare when I plan to spend time in the sun.
I’ve always been an outdoorsman, hunting, fishing, trapping, outside all the time and I knew that the sun could give me problems, but I never really took enough time to protect myself.
When I guided and fished tournaments, I didn’t use much, if any sunscreen as I worried about getting a scent on my hands that fish could smell, affecting my ability to catch fish.
Which was really STUPID, so what if I catch a few less fish on the trip, if I get skin cancer, I’m going to catch a heck of a lot less fish or I could die at an early age from not protecting myself from the sun.
Ever since that day, I worry about skin cancer as we all should, if you spend much time outdoors.
You don’t have to be injured, as I was to get skin cancer; you can get it by spending too much time in sun, while camping, fishing, hiking or just lying out on a blanket trying to get a tan.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and one that is easily prevented.
As I mentioned early, they’re three types of skin cancer, the two most common types being Basal Cell and Squamous Cell cancer.
Most people are aware of Basil Cell, it’s the type of cancer, that’s removed by freezing or burning it off and usually found on the head, face, neck, ears, hands and arms and can be dangerous and spread if not taken care of at its early stage.
Squamous Cell is more serious as it may spread quickly if not taken care of and needs to be surgically removed, with Melanoma the most dangerous, it spreads throughout the body rapidly.
Anyone can get skin cancer, but it’s most common in people who spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned, have light-colored skin, hair and eyes have a family member with skin cancer and those of us over the age of fifty.
There’re millions of cases of non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed every year in the U.S. and they continue to be on the rise.
In many of these cases, it could be prevented by simply avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun,
when at its peak power between ten a.m. and four p.m. daily.
It’s hard to believe that all it takes to protect yourself from skin cancer is to apply a little sunscreen and cover up with clothing, long sleeve shirts, long pants, a wide rim cap and sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% protection against UVA and UVB rays during the peak hours.
One thing you can bet on, that there’s a huge difference between sunscreens, you’ll want one with a Sun Protection Factor SPF of at least thirty or fifty. You’ll want one that’s both UA and UAB protection, waterproof and sweat proof.
Apply sunscreen liberally, at least thirty minutes before going out into the sun and it’s a good idea to reapply every fifteen to thirty minutes, an important part when it comes to applying sunscreen.
You’ll want to make sure you protect your nose, ears and lips because they’re hanging out there, receiving the largest amount of sun.
If you don’t want to end up with sore cracked lips, you’ll want to use a lip ointment, like the one I use, Dermatone lip balm with a Broad-Spectrum SPF 30, with both UVA and UVB protection, a dense formula that not only keeps my lips moisturized, it helps to prevent sunburn, chapping and cracking, that protects me from the harmful sun’s rays.
Anglers, like myself, worrying about the scent of a sunscreen they use, as they don’t want to transfer that scent to their line, bait and tackle.
Several companies including Dermatone, an Ultimate SPF 45+ Sunscreen for Fishermen which I use make is fragrance free, one that won’t degrade your fishing line.
After my bout with skin cancer, I wised up and when I am on the water, as the sun’s power is magnified by the reflection off the water and my aluminum boat, I cover up, wearing my HUK UPF 50 protection neck and head gator, a HUK long sleeve shirt with +30 UPF sun-blocking, and spray myself with an SPF water resistant sunscreen, while protecting my hands with Cabela's men's half-finger sun gloves.
I was lucky, but I wouldn’t want to rely on luck when it comes to getting skin cancer. Don’t let cancer stop you from enjoying life and the great outdoors!
Cover up, apply sunscreen, avoid excess exposure to the sun, and your outdoors experiences will be a long one and be a lot more enjoyable.
Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska is an award-winning writer, producer, broadcaster, former tournament angler, fishing and hunting guide and in 2017 inducted into the "National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame”.
He developed and was the Producer-Host for 23 years of his award winning gary Howey’s Outdoorsmen Adventures television series. He’s the Host of the award-winning Outdoor Adventures radio program carried on Classic Hits 106.3, ESPN Sports Radio 1570 in Southeastern South Dakota, KWYR Country 93 AM and Magic 93 FM in Central South Dakota, As well as on KCHE 92.1 FM in Northwest Iowa. If you’re looking for more outdoor information, check out www.GaryHowey'soutdoors.com , and www.outdoorsmenadventures.com, with more information on these Facebook pages, Gary Howey, Gary E Howey, Outdoor Adventure Radio, Outdoorsmen Productions and Team Outdoorsmen Productions. The Outdoor Adventures television show is available on numerous Independent markets, and the MIDCO Sports Network.