Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fund-Raising Flyer

Below is the official flyer to the wine tasting fund raiser to be held in Holly Springs, NC on July 20.  If you're in the neighborhood...or even a good drive away, it'll be worth attending!  If you're from out of town, let me know and I'll suggest some local motels/hotels.

And if you're a Jimmy Buffett fan, the Bud Moffett band is a Buffett tribute band.  It should be tons of fun!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Being "That Guy"

We all have heard of “That Guy.”


You know…that guy that always parks his car under the tree.  Oh, THAT guy!


You know…that lady that walks two huge dogs around the block at 7:00 every night.  Oh, THAT lady!


You know…the actor that played in that bad movie about the dinosaurs in the volcano.  Oh, THAT guy!

Not only do you know of “That Guy,” you probably are “That Guy” to someone else.  I’m sure I’ve been referred to as the guy who drives the beat-up Toyota Corolla, or the guy that works on the General Electric product, or the guy that has the twins.  “That guy” is usually defined by his behavior or actions, which may or may not be a good thing.  The other day, I was referred as “That Guy” in a very good way indeed.

“That guy that always talks about skin cancer.”

I wear that title with pride because I didn’t earn it from brash and annoying behavior (at least I don’t think I did). Instead, I became “That Guy” through subtle consistency:
  • My screen saver at work has three oscillating words floating back and forth that read, “Wear your sunscreen!”
  • On Casual Friday, I usually wear a t-shirt related to a melanoma fund-raising event or one of my BITNP t-shirts.
  • My colleague, Elliot often places a newspaper or magazine article related to sun safety or melanoma on my desk.  Rather than store it in my briefcase, I leave it laying there for others to see when they come by my desk.
  • When others are surfing for online news during their lunch break, I’ll seek out skin cancer-related articles and keep them on my screen for others to see.
  • While questions about it are rare, I wear my melanoma awareness wrist band daily.
  • Although such conversations are also rare, I jump in anytime skin cancer or sun safety is mentioned…not in a preaching way but just to participate in discussion.
  • When people ask me how my evening was, I’ll often say, “Pretty good…I wrote a blog post last night about tanning beds (or whatever) and got a good response.”

I have found that being “That Guy,” has affected how people act around me:
  • When someone comes to work on Monday with a sun burn or tan, others will whisper “You better not let Al see you!”
  • If someone has a spot or mole on her skin, they’ll ask me about it.  (I remind them that I’m not a doctor…but encourage them to see one).
  • I am approached about sun screen all the time.  Someone might be looking for a loophole (“What SPF will protect me but still allow me to get some color?” Um…if you get color, you’re not protected).  Others might be seeking the best brand or application.  I refer them to my blogs or other sites.
  • People brag to me when they take positive action towards sun safety (“Hey Al, just wanted you to know I rented an umbrella at the beach.”  “Hey Al, I went to the dermatologist yesterday and they told me…” (I’m most proud of this effect).

You can be “That guy (or gal) that always talks about skin cancer” as well.  You don’t have to stand on a pulpit with your Skin Cancer Foundation Journal in one hand and a bottle of SPF 30 in the other.  You can be approachable and still be “That Guy.”

People are more aware of how “That Guy” treats his car by knowing he parks it under the tree every day.  Being “That Guy” that always talks about skin cancer hopefully makes people aware of my mission and more aware of skin cancer and sun safety.

Be “That Guy!”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Protection Factors: SPF and UPF

Original Image:
There are two types of “protection factors” associated with the sun.  The first is the more common Sun Protection Factor, or SPF.  This is basically a measurement of the skin’s protection against UVB radiation, and it’s determined by measuring the ratio of time the skin would redden with sunscreen against the time it would burn without sunscreen.  Basically, if it takes you 15 minutes to burn, and SPF rating of 2 would allow you to stay in the sun for 30 minutes, or twice the amount before turning red.  Applying an SPF of 10 would theoretically allow you to sunbathe for 150 minutes…2 ½ hours!  So why in the heck would one need a sunscreen of SPF 30…after all, would you really want to stay outside under the hot sun for 450 minutes, or 7 ½ hours?

The truth is no sunscreen is going to stay effective that long.  First of all, your body will perspire under the sun, and sweat will degrade the lotion on your skin. Secondly, and most importantly, you probably don’t put anywhere near as much sunscreen on your skin as those laboratory folks do when rating SPF.  Most folks recommend that you apply about one shot glass of sunscreen to your body per application.  That’s really a lot of sunscreen!  In fact, applying that much sunscreen on your body each time would deplete a typical bottle of sunscreen in less than two days!  So again, why apply SPF 30?  Because one less-than-recommended application of SPF 30 is probably equivalent to a true laboratory coating of SPF 10 or less. 

That’s why you need to apply sunscreen every two hours.  You probably apply sunscreen when you first start your day in the sun, but fail to reapply later on.  Such lotions last about two hours, meaning when you start that round of golf at 10:00AM, you need to be adding it again before you make it to the back nine.  I’m sure many of you don’t.  But you need to.

Admittedly, sunscreen can be a real pain, but it’s important to get past that annoyance and make it part of your regular routine.  And by regular routine, I mean DAILY routine.  Sun damage is a cumulative thing….a little exposure here and a little there adds up.  Even walking the dog or engaging in a brief outdoor activity like lunch can add up over time, so it’s important to apply sunscreen every day…and every day of the year. 

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends an SPF of 30 as I state above and make sure it’s a broad spectrum lotion.  The Sun Protection Factor only applies to UVB rays…you need the broad spectrum lotion to also protect against UVA rays which contributes to skin cancers and aging.  Even an SPF of 100 doesn’t protect you against UVA rays if it’s not broad spectrum.  Make sure to apply it 30 minutes before you head out to allow it to soak into the skin.  After that, apply it every 2 hours.

Speaking of soaking into the skin, you might have some worries about the effects of the chemicals within such lotions on your skin and health.  For the vast majority of products, sunscreens are safe.  In fact, sunscreens are regulated as a medical product by the FDA the same as topical pain killers, acne creams, etc.  In Europe, sunscreens are considered a cosmetic and fall under far less scrutiny for skin safety.  Titanium oxide and zinc oxide are two chemistries that have been used as effective blocking sunscreens for years.  However, recent technology has allowed these elements to become smaller and smaller.  There is a real concern that nanoparticles of either chemical could now penetrate the skin.  Studies thus far are inconclusive as to what the dangers might be, but some medical professionals advise against any sunscreens that include nanoparticles.  Make sure to check the label of your sunscreen and chose the best for your needs and comfort.  But by all means, wear some type of sunscreen!

There is also a second type of protection factor…this is the UV Protection Factor, or UPF.  This is a measurement usually associated with the ability of clothing to protect against UV exposure.  This is not measured by comparing burning skin to protected skin, but measured with UV detection equipment.  Basically, a known amount of UV rays are transmitted onto a surface, such as fabric.  On the other side of the fabric is a meter which detects UV rays.  For simplicity sake, let’s say 50 “rays” of UV was transmitted onto the fabric, and only 1 “ray” was detected to have gone through the fabric.  This ratio of 1/50 means that the fabric has an SPF rating of 50.  This also means that 49 out of 50 rays, or 98% of the rays were blocked.  This is an excellent rating.

A typical good UPF rating is 30, much like SPF.  This means that only 1 out of 30 rays penetrated the fabric, or that 29 out of 30, or about 97% of the rays were blocked!  So what is a good type of fabric that offers a good UPF rating?  There are three parameters to consider when seeking good UPF-rated clothing: material, weave or thickness, and color.

The best materials are nylon, wool, silk and polyester.  All of these materials are usually tightly woven.  Loosely woven attire of the same material obviously wouldn’t work as well.  It’s all about blocking the UV rays, and the more dense and thick the material, the better.  Color matters as well.  Darker colors such as black or navy blue are best.  Bleached material is generally thinner and thus allows more penetration.  So what’s the perfect summer shirt to block the rays?  A long-sleeved black wool sweater. 

Obviously not the most comfortable in hotter climates.

Luckily, lighter-weight apparel with a high UPF rating is more readily available.  Companies such as Coolibar, UVSkinz, Mott 50 and others specialize in such attire and are growing in popularity.  Additionally, discount stores such as Target and Walmart offer more selection of cooler nylon shirts with UPF ratings of 30 or higher.

Remember that regular clothing also offers UV protection even without having a specific UPF rating.  Wearing a t-shirt offers much better protection than no shirt at all.  However, be careful of wear and tear in older clothing.  Fabric that is stretched allows more rays to pass through, so chose a newer t-shirt over that old stretched out comfort shirt.  Also, make sure your shirt has been washed.  The act of washing and drying will shrink many fabrics, especially cotton, which causes the weave to become tighter. 

Did your mother ever put a shirt on you when you played under the sprinkler or visited the public pool?  Mine did, thinking that the shirt offered better and longer lasting protection that the sunscreen.  But guess what?  A wet t-shirt offers virtually NO protection from the sun.  It allows the fabric to stretch and spread out, thereby opening the way for a full onslaught of UV radiation.  Trust me; I had many a night smelling of Solarcaine after a day of wearing a t-shirt at the pool.

Finally, no sun protection, whether SPF or UPF, would be complete without a hat.  A ball cap might offer some protection to the face, but a full, wide-brimmed hat would be more preferred.  Many people simply forget to apply sunscreen to the back of their neck, so having that extra protection in the back adds an additional bit of sun protection security.

No matter your attire, be sun-safe and be aware.  Embrace your time in the sun; just stay protected when you do so.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Don't Stop Believing

Martha Quinn with Steve Perry.  (Original Image:
We all have such Facebook friends.  You know who I’m talking about.  He’s the person who you knew in high school, although you never really hung out together.  She’s the one that posts interesting facts or thoughts, but also shares a little of their personal obsession or interest.  You may have more than one such Facebook friend.  The one I’m thinking about for me is a true Steve Perry fan.  She posts many insightful political links and thoughts, but she often fits one Steve Perry photo periodically.

I was a pretty big Steve Perry fan myself.  In case you younger folk don’t know, he was the lead singer of the rock group Journey back in the day.  They have a new look-alike, sound-alike singer now, but Steve was THE singer who’s associated with Journey’s biggest hits.  I saw them in concert back in their prime, and his voice was incredible.  “Wheel in the Sky,” “Any Way You Want It,” “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’”…all great songs.

A week or so ago, my friend posted a photo of Steve hugging Martha Quinn…one of the original MTV VJs from back in the network’s beginning.  Oh my…what man in their 40’s or 50’s now was NOT in love with cute little Martha?  Honestly, it was Martha in the photo that drew me to my friend’s posted photo, not Steve Perry.  But I noticed that Steve also had a huge scar on his face.  Nothing was mentioned about it, until today.

In case you missed it, check out the letter that Steve wrote to FanAsylum…a fan-based website.  Within the letter, he tells of finding a true love in his life…a true love who happened to have stage 4 breast cancer.  Despite her illness, he knew she was the one.  He goes on to summarize the next year and a half…to the point where she sadly passed away.  Within the story, he also stated the origin of his face scar.


An icon from my youth has melanoma.  Not an illness due to the hard partying rock and roll lifestyle, but melanoma.  He didn’t talk much about it in his letter because his focus was on his love.  He also assured us that the two surgeries removed the melanoma from his face.

My brother’s melanoma was removed from his face as well.  He died less than a year later.

But Steve’s outlook is far brighter.  A recent article outlines how the prognosis for melanoma patients now is so incredibly better than it was only two years ago when Jeff passed away.  Per the experts quoted, basic statistics for melanoma survival that one reads on the internet can almost be ignored.  “We don’t call (melanoma) a fatal disease any longer, we call it a chronic disease.”

Back in August, 2010, another good friend and melanoma researcher told me that great things were happening.  And they still are.  You have to believe that they’ll continue to get better…with support in funding for research and awareness.  You just have to believe.

As Steve Perry would sing (and my tutu-wearing west coast friend Mark Williams reminds us daily), “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wear a Hat!

When I was a lifeguard in high school and college, I wore little more than swim trunks, sun glasses and a sun visor.  The only reason I wore the latter was to shade my eyes so that I could watch the swimmers without glare from the sun above.  (The polarized sun glasses took care of the glare from the water).  I had no real concern about shading my face or scalp, especially since I had a full mane of wavy blonde hair to keep my head from burning.

<sigh>  Those were the days.

Now, I dare not venture outdoors without at least a cap (golf cap, ball cap…whatever you want to call it).  My protective mane has all but disappeared and my last experience wearing a sun visor left me with a scalp burn that would do a monk proud.  When I swim, I spray on some SPF 30 Banana Boat Body and Scalp Spray, but the hat goes right back on my head after I get back out.  Aside from my significant collection of caps, my favorite head adornment is my trusty wide-brimmed straw hat!

It’s important to realize that man (or woman) cannot fight UV rays with sunscreen alone.  You need to rock those fashionable shades (with 100% UV protection), wear clothing if possible, and definitely wear a hat.  I can vouch that, despite following EVERY guideline for applying and reapplying sunscreen during my vacation, I still had some darker tone on my forearms and lower legs…the places I was not covered by clothing or hat.  This past weekend, I worked in the yard, again slathered in sunscreen applied per all the guidelines while wearing my sweat-stained “yard work” cap.  At the end of the day, my neck had a slight red glow to it.  (Please hold the redneck jokes).  Not really burned to a crisp, but definitely had some sun exposure.  Oh yeah…it was also a cloudy day!

Did you know that about 23% or all men have their first melanoma spotted on their head?  For women, it’s 7%.  And if you recall my informal survey last September, 25% of respondents stated their melanoma was discovered on the head!  I guess my point is…wear a hat! 

Again, during my vacation (can you tell my mind still wants to hang on to that relaxing weekend?) I noticed quite a few people poolside and on the beach that were doing exactly that…wearing a hat!  In fact, I can’t recall seeing as many noggin’ covers as I saw this year.  So with my last reminder to wear your hat as much as possible, here are a few photos I took of nearby sun-smart hat wearers.  (And yes, Respect the Rays, I thought of you and your album of hat photos as I risked voyeur charges while taking these photos…J )