Why we need to be sun safe when exercising outdoors: Georgia shares her scare with Melanoma

The Longevity Exercise Physiology Team in Drummoyne,EdgecliffMarrickville,Bella Vista, Randwick, Lindfield and Balmain discuss the importance of sun safety during outdoor exercise sessions.

One thing everyone who exercises on a regular basis has in common is that they value their health and overall wellbeing.  With summer just around the corner, I’m sure a lot of us will make the most of the weather and find ourselves exercising outdoors more and more. So, the last thing we want to be doing when we are trying to prioritise our health is to put ourselves at risk of developing skin cancer. If COVID- 19 has taught us anything, it’s that health must come first. It is essential to keep this in mind as we move into the warmer months and make a conscious effort to be sun safe.

Our Exercise Physiologist Georgia had a recent melanoma scare earlier in the year. Georgia has learned a lot about skin cancer since her diagnosis and feels strongly about sharing her story to raise awareness and provide ideas of how to minimise our risk.

Georgia was visiting her family back on the central coast when her father, a skin cancer doctor, noticed a mole on the bottom of her foot. After a closer examination, Georgia had an excisional biopsy to remove the mole.

The biopsy resulted in a diagnosis of melanoma. Fortunately for Georgia, it was very early, meaning it hadn’t spread beyond the skin.  However, Georgia knows that if it was not for early detection, she may not have been so lucky. The only further treatment she needed was a wide excision, a surgical procedure to ensure a safe margin to reduce the risk of the mole coming back.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which usually occurs to parts of the body that have been over exposed to the sun. In 2019, melanoma was the third most diagnosed Cancer in Australia, and we have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. Melanoma does not discriminate against age; Georgia was just 24 when she was diagnosed with her melanoma. In 2019, melanoma was the second most diagnosed cancer for individuals aged between 24-49.

There are some risk factors that we cannot change, including family history in a first degree relative, fair skin, having a large number of moles and interestingly, where we lived for the first 10 years of our life (i.e. growing up in a country with high UV index such as Australia.) There are, however, several things that we can control to reduce our risk. Try to minimise sunburn by wearing sunscreen, a hat and glasses and never use solariums. We also need to consider the time of day we are going outside to exercise. Try to avoid being outside for extended periods of time between 10am-4pm as this is when the UV index is highest.

We can also be proactive by having yearly skin checks. You should also get a skin check if you have any moles you are concerned about. That raises the question, what exactly is a mole that you should be concerned about?

There is a simple acronym, “ABCDE”, which acts as a guide when looking for moles that could potentially be melanomas. Asymmetry, moles that are irregular shape or different from others. Border, where the border of a mole is uneven or appears raised. Colour, a mole may change in colour, have different colour shades, or become blotchy. Diameter, usually over 6mm, however with improved diagnostic techniques melanomas are being diagnosed smaller- Georgia’s was just 2mm! And finally- Evolving, looking for moles that are changing in size, colour or shape, as well as taking note of any new moles.

Below is a photo of Georgia’s melanoma, which looks very unsuspecting to the naked eye. Even though it is important to check our skin ourselves, getting a skin check by a Doctor, using special diagnostic equipment, may reveal something more sinister.

The 5 year survival rate for melanoma in situ (early melanoma) is 98.5%. This emphasises the significant difference early detection can make.

Georgia hopes by sharing her experience it prompts some of you to go and get that skin check you may have been putting off, and to think more carefully about ways you can reduce your risk when you go out next to exercise outdoors.

To discuss your individual health concerns and exercise options, call Longevity 1300 964 002


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