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Cycling Triathlon

Cycling + Sunburn = Skin Cancer?!

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In professional cycling skin cancer is now a huge concern!

In this article I want to disturb you! I’m sorry, this is no way to start an article, but you see, this is for your good and for those who love you. Please indulge me and let me tell you about me and what happened when I did not spot a mole that was in fact melanoma.

I was out running and I remember the run, a half-marathon distance and it was 25 C and I was heading out to meet my wife and son for a swim at a gym in the nearest city to us. Under my Garmin was a mole, I noticed it as I checked my pace and it was there, poking out from under the sports watch and slightly blurred by the factor 50 suncream. I had, of course, seen it slightly changing over time. I’d even seen my GP and asked about it, several times. I’d even had a BUPA medical. Each time I was told that is was a wart. This time, the cool looking mole (yes, it looked just like the Batman symbol) was bothering me. I decided to do something about it.

I went back to see the GP and insisted that I was referred under my BUPA (private healthcare) policy to a specialist and as soon as I stepped into the specialist’s office, he told me that it was melanoma and ‘to prepare for the worst.’ He wasn’t the most positive chap and BUPA were amazing and I was re-referred to the amazing Dr Manjit Kaur at the Spire private hospital. I was educated on what I had, the options were explained and it was recommended that I followed the latest NICE guidelines (https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance) for my treatment. That I did and a I had a few extra non-malignant moles removed over the 5-years post treatment and I I am now hugely thankful to the experts at the Spire and Queens hospitals in Birmingham that I am now released from further treatment.

You can imagine the worry and concern of my family and as you know, as soon as statistics are checked on the Cancer Research website and the mirror of woe that is social media, panic would quiet easily set in! Would I even see my son grow up? Would I grow old with my wife? I do not want you to ever go through that!

It’s worth mentioning here, that when under-going treatment through BUPA, I was assigned a specialist nurse who provided telephone consultations and she was amazing and social media was very quickly ignored. I had the medical equivalent to the SAS on my side!

A few, very important, things that I learned along the way:

1). If you ever have doubts about any mole on your body, get referred to a specialist and get them checked out. Even if you don’t have private medical insurance, a consultation is the price of a weekly grocery shop and it could save your life!!

2). I am pale skinned and have blue eyes. Apparently, only if I had red hair could I have been any more at risk! However, even darker-skinned people can get skin cancer – hence – when the sun is out, slap on the sun-block and I use the products developed at https://altruistsun.com. Why Altruist? They are developed by a specialist in skin cancer and the prices do not empty your wallet!

3). Burned skin means DNA damage to the skin and DNA damage to the skin equals a far higher chance of getting skin cancer!! That means, that those pictures on social media where cyclists show their red legs below their cycling shorts should be a picture of shame and not bragging rights!

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You might be thinking ‘I bet he was a sun worshipper!’ I wasn’t and still I’m not a big fan of being out in the sun. I had really horrid hay fever as I child and in the summer months, I stayed indoors quite a lot. The winter was the time that I got my form and enjoyed the outdoors! I detest sitting on a beach, or the deck of a boat and I only really ever got badly sun-burned in Blackpool of all places! I was handling dogs at a dog show (I have led a varied life).

Here is really useful info for you that bust a few myths on suncream https://altruistsun.com/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-sunscreen/ and my top tip is to carry suncream in your jersey pocket and top up on longer rides. Some people go the whole hog and wear total unblocking garments. Instead, on the sunniest of days, you will find me in the garage on Zwift, RGT or another indoor cycling platform with the fans at full tilt!! If I do go out on a sunny day, I am always very cautious of mesh-style cycling tops and wear sun-blocking compression style tops underneath these. A number of brands now offer various garments that offer a SPF rating and don’t just go for the what-looks-cool-in-the-cafe garments.

Rather than posting grim looking moles and skin lesions here, the NHS in the UK offer evidence-informed and fact-checked guidance https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/melanoma-skin-cancer/

And just remember, your skin is an organ, if covers your entire surface area – once you get skin cancer, the battle is on to prevent is moving around and into your body – just don’t take any chances and stay safe!

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Whilst I’m fond of my bottle of Amp Human – as soon as the UV increases, it’s suncream for me and it goes into my jersey pocket!