Sun danger

Sun danger

A doctor with a stethoscope
We cyclists love to ride in shorts and short sleeves in summer. Like many long distance touring cyclists, I have picked up the occasional basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Last autumn, I ended up having three ‘spots’ removed. One was an early stage-one melanoma. Over the years, I had used skin creams – clearly not enough.

Brian Morris

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and includes melanoma and non-melanoma types, the latter incorporating squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Melanoma is the least common but most serious type as it is the most likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanomas are usually pigmented (black or brown) lesions which are often enlarging, asymmetrical and irregular. Common sites are on the back (particularly in men) and legs (especially in women).

BCCs are the most common skin cancers but are generally slow-growing and rarely spread. They often present as a lump with a rolled edge and pearly appearance. SCCs may present as an ulcerated or hard lesion but clinical appearance is variable. Both are commonly found on sun-exposed parts of the body including the head and neck and the backs of the hands.

UV radiation is the single biggest risk factor for developing skin cancer. It is thought that the amount of sun exposure (particularly during childhood) and a higher frequency of previous episodes of sunburn increase the risk of developing skin cancer in adult life.

Cyclists need to take sensible precautions to limit UV sunlight radiation, especially in summer. These include limiting time spent in the most intense sun around the middle of the day, using a hat or helmet with a peak, and wearing UV-blocking cycle clothing.

Regular liberal application of a high factor sun cream and lip protection is important. Use one with high UVA and UVB protection and don’t forget to reapply since sweating can wash it off. Wear sunglasses and remember to protect any exposed areas of scalp. See your GP if you are concerned about new or changing lesions.

Dr Matt Brooks

Cycling GP

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