Dr. Sam Economou
If you love to bike or run and want to enjoy it well into your senior years protect yourself from the sun. That’s the advice for America’s 57 million cyclists and 36 million runners from a leading plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has treated thousands of patients over the course of his 15-year career for skin cancer and melanoma.
As the sun intensifies in its strength throughout the summer, those who are active outdoors need to take precautions against the sun’s harmful rays, says Dr. Sam Economou, who leads Plastic Surgery Consultants, Ltd., a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery practice located in Edina, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis.
The reason is simple. Skin cancer is on the rise. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, more than two million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year. In addition, about 68,000 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, are diagnosed yearly.
While more people are detecting cancer earlier, increasing their chances of survival, cancer rates are actually rising, especially among young people who use tanning booths and those who do not use sunblock when working and playing outside.
Biking and running is about spending time outdoors and more often than not, most enjoy the weather when it is nice and sunny. That puts many of America’s 36 million runners at risk for skin cancer, says Dr. Economou. The more time you spend outdoors running, the greater risk of exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation and sunburns.
Both outdoor enthusiasts have several strikes against them when it comes to skin cancer, notes Dr. Economou. Because many runners run near their homes and often times not more than an hour, they think they’re not at risk if they don’t put on sunblock. According to a Runner’s World poll, upwards of 50 to 60 percent of people who bike, or walk regularly never use sunblock. With runners is, they tend to expose more skin than other athletes because of the clothes they wear, and because many wear t-shirts that do little to block the sun’s rays. In addition, many bikers and runners are not aware that water, sand, asphalt streets and snow reflect dangerous UV rays.
To help lower the risk of developing skin cancer, Dr. Economou offers these tips:
• Apply sunblock.
Conduct skin cancer self-examinations. If you have a fair complexion, multiple freckles and moles, and experienced severe sunburns as a child, you have some of the leading risk factors for skin cancer. Take this seriously especially if you spend a fair amount of time outside. At least once a month, before you get into or just out of the shower, look at your skin. Look at moles and freckles to see if you notice any changes in their shape, size, color or asymmetry. Make an appointment once a year with your doctor or a dermatologist to look at your skin as part of an annual exam. Especially watch moles and freckles on high-risk areas of your body, the face, nose, ears, the back of your hands and your calves.
Article Published: 04-17-2012