Recently, my wife had been after me to visit a dermatologist and get checked out. “Make me an appointment,” I said. “And I’ll go.” So, she did, and I went. I’m glad that I did – and thankful.
Anyone who fishes with me often knows I am fairly serious about wearing sun protection while on the water, so I didn’t expect to have any problems. Sometimes I get razzed by buddies about my pants or long sleeves and buff on a hot summer day, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized it is important to take more care of myself.
The dermatologist’s exam only took a few minutes and was a pretty simple exercise. It involved looking over my skin starting with the toes and up to my temples. After about 15 minutes, the doctor reported that I had two possible skin cancer growths and that they needed a biopsy. A few days later, I got the call – yes, I had two different types of skin cancer…wow.
Luckily for me, neither one was the most dangerous type (Melanoma), but they still were cause for concern and needed removed immediately. The first was a fairly deep and well-developed Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) cancer on my right wrist, requiring a very deep surgical removal from the wrist and some major stitches. I will have to go back and maybe have another procedure on this wrist in a couple of months to ensure complete removal. This type of cancer rarely results in fatalities, but can cause health issues if not addressed
The second type of skin cancer I had was a Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) which can develop into a deadly form if not properly treated. More than 8,800 people die annually from this type of skin cancer. Incidents of this type have increased by 200 percent in the last decade. This one was on my leg and was shallow enough to be scraped and burned off, leaving what looks like a burn wound.
Skin Cancer Prevention While Fishing
First things first, go to a dermatologist, and go soon if you haven’t been in recent years for an exam. Get off to a good and healthy start! Even though I have recently been diagnosed and treated, I’ll need to go back yearly to ensure new malicious growths don’t appear.
Clothing – Wearing the right UV protective clothing can provide excellent protection from harmful rays. Consider long-sleeve UV performance shirt, a buff and gloves. Stormr makes a great line of UV Shield wear that I like to use. When covering up, remember that not all material will protect against UV rays.
Headwear – The dermatologist told me during my visit that many anglers come in to visit and need to get skin cancer removed from the temples, forehead, back of the neck and even the scalp. This skin is thinner and more likely to leaves scars after removal than other parts of the body. A cap used with a buff or a wide-brimmed hat are good options to protect this area. And don’t forget your sunglasses.
Sunscreen – It’s inevitable that an angler may not have the right UV clothing or chooses not to be covered up. In this case, always wear SPF 15 or greater sunscreen and re-apply every two hours. A lot of fishermen won’t use sunscreen for fear it will apply scent to line or lures which will prevent the bite. Because of this I prefer to use Sunsect SPF 15 which is non-greasy, non-scented and will dry cleanly after applying. I visited with an FLW Tour Pro who uses Sunsect brand sunscreen for this very reason. (plus it repels bugs and mosquitos!)
Know Your Enemy
Even though I’ve been fairly consistent in wearing sun protection since I began fishing about three years ago, I wasn’t as diligent when much younger and am paying for it today. This chart from University Health News shows what some of these look like. The scary thing to me is that the spots or areas I was concerned about were not cancer at all, and a couple of spots that I thought were NOTHING were the actual cancers. Go to a dermatologist who knows what to look for!
At the end of the day I was lucky and should be fine going forward. Not every angler who spends hours and hours on the water is so lucky. Don’t take the chance. For you and your family’s sake – get checked, and protect yourself.