Lesson in Sun Protection

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 04:34 PM

By Ronni Gordon

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As another likely squamous cell skin cancer pops up on the back of my left hand, I have been thinking about a sight that seemed odd at the time — but which now makes perfect sense to me.
 
Walking down a trail from the rim of the Grand Canyon, my friends and I — all wearing T-shirts and shorts in the searing heat — came across a group of Japanese women sporting white gloves and clothed from head to toe in black. Their perfect skin peeked out only from beneath wide-brimmed hats.
 
Okay, maybe they were overdoing it a little, but those women had the right idea. It’s unlikely that they have a potential squamous cell cancer on the back of their hands.
 
For me, the skin cancers that can occur with age have been exacerbated by intensive chemotherapy and use of prednisone, which have compromised my immune system.
 
I thought it would be nice to have gloves like those Japanese women wore at the Grand Canyon.
 
It turns out that all I had to do was Google: “Lightweight sun protection gloves with grip.” At least half a dozen websites popped up in seconds.
 
The gloves come in full-finger or fingerless versions. I thought the ones with fingers might be too hot, so I ordered a fingerless pair with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50.
 
The sun protection on clothing is measured in UPF, which is similar to the sun protection factor (SPF) used for sunscreens. The ratings for clothing range from 15 (good) to 50 (excellent).
 
I wish my dermatologist had suggested gloves to me early, especially since she has seen the squamous cell cancer and pre-cancerous spots on my left hand. (Incidentally, I asked her why the left is worse; she said it’s due to the fact that the left hand get more sun exposure when you drive.)
 
My dermatologist in Boston already removed one skin cancer from my hand about six weeks ago. Now I need to go back for another biopsy on the new dot that looks like a raised freckle.
 
Hopefully my new gloves will keep me from having to make another 90-minute trip very soon.

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Ronni Gordon is a cancer survivor and long-time journalist who has written extensively about health issues and her personal journey. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and has written for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and many other publications.
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