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"Why Skin Protection is Crucial: Lessons Learned from My Battle with Squamous Cell Skin Cancer"

Why Skin Protection is Crucial My Battle with Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

 

As I reflect on my years working and fishing across the Americas, I can't help but acknowledge the toll the sun took on my skin. The countless hours spent outdoors, raking in the sun's rays, seemed harmless in those early years. However, nearing the age of 70, I was first diagnosed with squamous cell skin cancer (a.k.a. SCC), a wake-up call that changed my perspective on sun protection forever.

 

Throughout my early years of outdoor work and recreation, I neglected to prioritize skin protection. To be sure, I underestimated the damaging effects of prolonged sun exposure, assuming that a tan was cool, a sign of vitality and health. Silently, however, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays were wreaking havoc on my skin, leading to the development and emergent development of SCC later in life.

 

Summer sun UV on the MississippiDelta with angler, fish artist and friend Gary Fisher
Summer sun UV on the MississippiDelta with angler, fish artist and friend Gary Fisher

After undergoing that initial treatment, I thought I had squeaked by with one encounter with SCC. However, now at the age of 73, SCC has resurfaced, this time on my upper cheek, a stark reminder of the persistent threat posed by UV radiation. This experience served as a sobering reminder to me once again of the importance of proactive skin protection and regular skin examinations.

 

So I offer this reminder, nay, exhortation, to you also. Be proactive in protecting your skin! And do so at whatever age you may be. It’s never too early or too late to start!!

 

While my journey to date has been with squamous cell skin cancer, I am acutely aware of the prevalence and significance of other types of skin cancer. Melanoma, for instance, is a highly aggressive form of skin cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the body if not detected and treated early. Basal cell carcinoma, another common type of skin cancer, may grow slowly and often appear as a pearly bump or a flesh-colored lesion.

 

It is crucial to recognize that all forms of skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and basal cell carcinoma, are linked to sun exposure. The damaging effects of UV radiation can manifest in various ways, underscoring the need for comprehensive sun protection measures.




Author under the equatorial sun canopy of Colombia, SA
Author under the equatorial sun canopy of Colombia, SA

 

I am now more compelled than ever to share my story and advocate for the criticality of skin protection. Sunscreen, skin-protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, face / neck gaiters, and gloves have become my trusted allies in the battle against harmful UV rays. I have come to realize that these simple measures can make a world of difference in safeguarding our skin from potential damage and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

 

Moreover, staying vigilant and aware of changing skin conditions is paramount. Regular self-examinations and annual visits to the dermatologist are essential in detecting any abnormalities or early signs of skin cancer. Early intervention can significantly improve treatment outcomes and prevent the progression of skin malignancies.

 

Identifying a dermatologist early in your adult life and visiting them annually for check-ups is crucial for maintaining skin health. By establishing a proactive relationship with a dermatologist, individuals can receive personalized guidance and early detection of any potential skin issues, including skin cancer.

 

As I look back, it wasn’t until my early 40's that I became more conscious of the importance of skin protection, and I started diligently using sunscreen. Then, in my 50’s, I incorporated wearing protective sun clothing during my time in the sun, whether I was working or fishing. I now, however, fully understand that waiting to initiate significant sun protection at age 40 was a major mistake. As it proved, significant damage had already set in, and despite these precautions, SCC didn't surface until I was 70, and now again, at 73, making it apparent that the effects of sun exposure can take years to manifest.



Recent surgical removal of Squamous Cell Skin Cancer
Recent surgical removal of Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

 

Reflecting back, I wish I had been more vigilant about my skin health earlier, but I'm grateful now for the opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of sun protection and regular skin examinations. It's never too late to start taking care of your skin, and it's crucial to prioritize this aspect of health as much as any other.

 

As someone who has spent countless hours chasing the great finned trophies all across the Americas, I've come to appreciate the importance of a good "stitching technique" as a unique presentation for slow-bottom crawling a lure or other bait to entice the bite. However, I've also learned that it's far better to utilize this “stitching technique” for fishing rather than for closing a scalpels bite from a biopsy or, worse, a cancerous lesion. It's always better to take preventive measures and address any concerns promptly, just as it's better to have a “stitch in time” than a bigger issue down the line!

 

Yes, that’s a fun play on words. But I assure you, there is no fun playing with skin cancer.


Stay covered and stay protected!

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Shout out to my great dermatology team at MacInnis Dermatology of Central Florida


"stitch in time" The phrase "a stitch in time saves nine" means that it is better to address and fix a problem immediately, even if it seems small, rather than waiting and allowing it to become a bigger problem that requires more effort and time to resolve. It emphasizes the importance of taking timely action to prevent further complications or difficulties in the future.

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