Home Forums Melanoma Diagnosis: Stages I &II what is acceptable sun exposure?

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  • #21027
    BigRed1984
    Participant

    I am almost a year out from my diagnosis (it was leap day, I wont have my first anniversary for 3 more years!) At first I was terrified of the sun, my heart would race if I had to be outside even with long sleeves, hat and sunblock. That made for a difficult and uncomfortable summer. Slowly things have gotten easier. Now the sun has come out again and we have enjoyed a few glorious sunny days. I find myself wanting to put my body in the sun again. I spent ten minutes today at the river in a tank top with no protection! I know, I’m getting crazy. I used to be a sun junkie and it feels so amazing to just soak up the rays. It supercharges my batteries. Is there a safe amount of time I can spend in the sun without sunblock? I’m not sure why but sitting in the warm sun with block on doesn’t give me the same…high. I know I sound horribly irresponsible. But I would love some advice. I would never go unprotected during peak hours. The uv index was low today when I went out unprotected. How do others deal with their body’s need for sunshine without damaging their already delicate skin further?

    #59191
    Eos99
    Participant

    BigRed1984,

    Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary, on your pregnancy, and that the facial lesion you had been concerned about turned out not to be a basal. Congrats too that your anxiety about being out in the sun has lessened.

    However, there is no “acceptable” amount of unprotected sun exposure for us. Back in August you had described yourself by writing, “…I have most of the risk factors, red hair, blistering sunburns, tanning bed use, lots of moles…”

    It’s great that you’re not letting fear diminish your happiness. But don’t get too complacent. We can get sufficient vitamin D from diet and/or supplementation (if a medical test finds a deficiency). We are not the folks who are arguably “okay” with 0-20 minutes of sun exposure during off-peak hours, low-to-moderate UV index or otherwise.

    Next time you’re tempted to spend ten minutes at the river unprotected in a tank top, please consider UPF clothing or at least very good quality sunscreen. Yours is a psychological desire for sunshine, not a physical need for it.

    I understand the craving (for sun on the bod) and am sorry to be a jerk about this, but you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

    #59192
    chas66
    Participant

    Hi, it can be difficult because it’s fun to be in the sun. However, there isn’t anytime you can’t be vigilant. Sure, a few minutes here or there are going to happen but I wouldn’t sit out in the sun without sunblock. Not to be graphic, but I can show you a picture of an incredible scar from melanoma surgery that needed 2 skin grafts to close which I believe would alter you thinking a little bit. And that doesn’t include the less than appealing 5 year survival rate I’m living with.

    #59193
    wpatterson4
    Participant

    I’m no expert on how much is too much, but I don’t freak out about getting a little bit of sun. Yesterday, I took a thirty minute walk down the gravel road in front of my house. I really didn’t realize how long I’d been out, and such excursions are rare for me, anyway. You can’t be worried about how much sun you get walking through a parking lot. That’s seriously damaging to mental health, if you ask me.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t take certain common sense precautions, though. Shorts are out. I never wore them anyway, and, because of melanoma, I never will. If I were a woman, I would not walk into broad daylight wearing any sort of open top shirt or dress, either. I say this because I believe that any areas of our bodies that aren’t easily seen should be covered, as to lessen the chances of melanoma appearing out-of-sight.

    #59194
    wpatterson4
    Participant

    Chas,

    What is your melanoma history? I saw that you had 4.5mm nodular mel with a clear groin SN. Was it on your legs?

    #59195
    chas66
    Participant

    wpatterson4 wrote:

    Chas,

    What is your melanoma history? I saw that you had 4.5mm nodular mel with a clear groin SN. Was it on your legs?

    Hi, wpatterson, nodular melanoma, Breslow was 4.5, no ulceration, it was on the bottom of my foot. It was a mole (I’ve always called it a birthmark but every doc calls it a mole). SNLB showed the lymph was clear. WLE showed clear margins. Tomorrow I find out what the CT scans show. Of course all of these doc visits have found that I now have a few worrisome moles elsewhere in your typical sun related areas which have to be watched closely (not near the original tumor). Need to decide on watch and wait or interferon. Although I will say, I hate the term watch and wait. It just seems to imply something will inevitably happen. I was watching a podcast today where a doc called it “active surveillance” I propose we call it that from now on.

    #59196
    Jenni
    Participant

    Hi BigRed,

    I don’t know if there is a right answer to the question but my thoughts are that a little sun won’t hurt you. I have a UV app that seems to be fairly accurate that tells me when the sun is less intense. If it 3 or under, not too strong, I don’t think it hurts to be in the sun 30 mins without spf. The biggest thing for me (AND what all my derms have told me) is to NOT BURN. I also, personally shouldn’t be walking around with a tan given my history but I have gotten a TINY bit of color on my arms (last summer) so faint you could hardly tell and I flipped out. I saw my derm shortly after and she told me to chill out and not stress about it. As someone else mentioned here, stressing about the sun you get going in and out of your car to the stores is going to do more damage mentally than that sun will do to your skin :)

    EVERYTHING in moderation is my motto and as for sun (for us) we have to be more careful than we were in the past, but personally I dont find what you did to be so bad, as long as you didn’t get “Color” from it.

    Cheers,

    Jenni

    #59197
    wpatterson4
    Participant

    Thanks, Chas. It’s unfortunate that it was on the bottom of your foot. I’m beginning to believe that a big chunk of melanomas don’t have anything to do with sun exposure, at least not in the way we think they do. I certainly believe that about yours. That is, unless foot sole tanning was a high priority for you.

    Mine was in a spot on which I’ve never received anything more than slight redness. I don’t blame sun exposure for mine.

    Jenni, I’m in agreement with you. I think a burn is what you should be looking to avoid, not all sun exposure.

    #59198
    Catherine Poole
    Keymaster

    I first want to point out that we all need sun, at least twenty minutes a day of unprotected sun. Vitamin D deficiency is high these days. But get the sun when it isn’t so intense, like before 10am or after 4pm. I love the feeling of the sun in the winter! It really is a healthy thing when you do it in moderation.

    Melanomas that appear in places that don’t see the sun can be: acral lentiginous (palms, soles of feet, nail beds) mucosal (in a mucous membrane, mouth, vaginal or anal) or cutaneous. Sometimes melanomas do crop up where “the sun don’t shine” and that’s because the sun is a type of radiation that is absorbed by the body.

    So please don’t sit in the basement, enjoy the sun but do it in moderation.

    #59199
    Eos99
    Participant

    BigRed1984, Catherine, and everyone,

    I am so sorry for having (adamantly) spread misinformation. I had no idea that we need at least twenty minutes a day of unprotected sun. Again, I apologize.

    #59200
    BigRed1984
    Participant

    Wow look at all the replies. I should always wait a day to check my posts. I appreciate everyones concern. It is difficult to know what is acceptable behavior having had a melanoma. I think I am comfortable with minimal exposure on a low uv day. However, our sunny weather changed back to cold and damp, I wont be outside much for a while.

    Catherine, do you know if vitamin D supplements work just as well as the sun for those who aren’t willing to risk the exposure?

    chas66 I am sorry to hear about your difficult diagnosis, I pray that they caught it in time.

    Eos99- I felt exactly like that toward sun exposure last spring and summer

    #59201
    wpatterson4
    Participant

    Hey, Chas, keep us posted on that scan. I’m hoping the best for you.

    #59202
    Eos99
    Participant

    Hey BigRed1984,

    Actually, I’d be tickled if we high risk folks are supposed to get at least 20 minutes of unprotected sun daily. I simply had no idea that science has shown that would be a good or necessary thing.

    Over the years, multiple dermys had told me cover & goop up, avoid peak hours as much as I could, and go live my life. So, I’ve never been sun-phobic. The skin specialists told me that we get incidental UV exposure despite our best efforts. I don’t sweat that.

    My vitamin D levels are checked yearly by my GP. I’ve never come up deficient (though I realize others might). Have lived in sunny climates and extremely overcast ones back in the northeast. And, I have never taken Vit D supplements, nor would I without a doc telling me to, since I wouldn’t want to inadvertently take toxic amounts (pretty hard to do, but apparently possible).

    Best wishes with your choices. :)

    #59203
    Jenni
    Participant

    Eos99 – Many derms will tell you NO sun is good for you. I had one tell me I should shield myself and my baby when I go into the store from the parking lot. That is just too extreme. All the PLC derms that I have seen (one in Boston, one at Stanford and one in SF) have all told me a little sun won’t hurt and emphasis that I should not burn. So, I guess I am just saying don’t apologize, no worries :)

    BigRed – I have had my Vit D levels checked a few times a year and when I went deficient (around 15, when normal levels are somewhere between 30 and 100, I think) I started taking 2000 extra icu a day (I have 400 icu in my daily vitamin). We rechecked at 3 months, it was at 25 and then again, at 6 months and it was 37. Now, I still take 2400 icu a day (total) to maintain. I am told it is fine to take during pregnancy. So the supplements worked and I assume they are continuing to work. Will let you know once I check again (was planning on doing that when I get pregnant and STILL haven’t gotten that yet)! Haha.

    Keep dry, we have that same rain and dampness here!

    Cheers,

    Jenni

    #59204
    Eos99
    Participant

    Jenni,

    I’m giggling because there was the one dermy I had years ago in Boston who would have loved to see me wearing the equivalent of a haz-mat suit.

    Thanks for the good info and the chuckle! :)

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