Living the Airstream life means being outside more and enjoying our great outdoors. It also means increased exposure to the natural elements, including sunlight. Having fun in the sun brings immediate happiness, but it can also take a cumulative toll on our skin and bring discoloration, pain, premature aging, wrinkles, lesions, cancer, and sometimes death.
Last year I noticed a few skin lesions on the left side of my face, so I had them checked by my dermatologist. I had limited improvement with hydrocortisone, but they did not go completely away. Last week my biopsy results indicated that the largest lesion is actinic (solar) keratosis (AK), a skin growth caused by exposure to sunlight. This can be the first step in the development of skin cancer and needs to be treated. As I write this, I am on day 2 of a two week course of applying a 2% solution of Fluorouracil (an antimetabolite) directly on the lesion. During this period the lesion will become inflamed leading to a crusty scab that will slough away and be replaced with new, and hopefully, healthy skin.
(The largest lesion is the reddened vertical area about an inch from my mustache; the red spot is the shave biopsy site)
I’ve read that during the treatment phase, I can expect some discomfort and an unattractive face. I’ll spare you the day-by-day pictures, but for those who would like to see the process and one man’s interesting story with photos, click here. (Keep in mind he was using a 5% cream.) I also found this article on actinic keratosis helpful, along with this one.
Our skin plays a wonderful role in protecting our body, and, as you can imagine, I’m quickly learning the importance of protecting my skin. I highly recommend that you take a moment to click on and watch this excellent, You Tube video clip, Sun Safety Tips, which tells how to protect yourself (seek shade, cover up and use sunscreen). This one, Safe Skin, shows how to recognize skin changes that you should see your doctor about.
I am learning that studies show that sun damage to skin accumulates over time and that 80% is thought to occur before the age of 18. (When I was growing up, we used suntan lotions and oils for that even tanned (well-cooked) look.) I am also learning that ultra violet rays can pass through clouds, and bounce off sand, snow and other surfaces and strike us, even if we are in shade. Thinning of the ozone layer may be allowing more of these rays to reach us. And I am at greater risk because of my fair skin and blue eyes.
So, I will try to avoid a sunburn by applying a good broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, during our next scheduled outing at South Carlsbad State Beach, CA, after Labor Day. While living the Airstream life, it’s easy to forget to apply sunscreen, as seen in Rich Luhr’s Tour of America post, “Airstream life on the Sea of Cortez” (but you’ll see in one of the post’s photos, that Rich keeps his hat nearby).
Observing sun safety is one way to continue enjoying living the Airstream life longer. And while I’m wearing this hat, I’d like to introduce a delightful tune, “The Sun Has Got His Hat On”, by the Cafe Society” and another version (Ambrose & his Orchestra, 1932).