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Into the Outdoors: Sun Related Hazards

Although this has been a somewhat cloudy and cold spring so far, there have been some days that have felt almost hot, complete with bright sun. The real sunny weather is just around the corner.

I think this might be a good time for our annual look at some sun related hazards, and how to prevent them. A few years ago, I had a skin cancer removed from my right wrist. It was not the deadly kind, but it was still frightening. When I asked my dermatologist, who removed it, what caused it, she said that it was probably sun exposure. Now that it’s May, sun exposure will become more and more of a factor. Few people spend more time out in the sun than anglers. Needless to say, sunburn is an unpleasant side effect. For many years, sunburn was viewed as little more than a painful nuisance. Over the course of the last ten or so years, many new facts have come to light, and they are disturbing. Continued exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can, and will, cause skin cancer. The problem is especially severe for anglers. Not only are we exposed to the sun’s direct rays, but also indirect, reflected rays from water and other shiny surfaces. It’s like a double dose of trouble. The skin’s first response is sunburn. Over a period of time, the results can be premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. Some individuals are more susceptible than others to the sun’s harmful effects, but no one is immune. In general, the lighter the skin, the greater the risk. People like me, with red hair and freckles, seldom if ever tan, and are among those with the highest degree of risk. In fact, I lost a red haired cousin to melanoma, an especially deadly form of skin cancer. Fortunately, this form of skin cancer is really quite preventable. A good sunscreen lotion will do the job. Sunscreen protection factors are rated numerically. The higher the number, the stronger the screen. The typical sunscreen poses a few problems for the angler. For one thing, the protection factor is often not high enough, as many are also suntan lotions. In addition, some products wash off rather easily. Some anglers report problems with the scent of the lotion being deposited on baits and lures, although I have never, to my knowledge, encountered problems in this area. In the end, your best bet is one of the many sunscreens made especially for those who spend a lot of time in water-related sports. I’ve spent entire days in the sun using some of these products, without even getting sunburned, and, for me, that’s really something.

Too much sunlight can be bad for your eyes, too. It can lead to the development of cataracts, something with which I am all too familiar. By the way, many thanks to all who wished me well after my recent cataract surgery. A good pair of sunglasses is a must for both safety and comfort. Make sure that they are of good enough quality to not distort your vision. Most anglers opt for some type of polarized glasses. This eliminates the glare off the water, allowing you to see beneath the surface. Some models have little magnifiers on the bottoms of the lenses. This makes knot tying and other tasks easier for those of us whose vision has been affected by Father Time.

My recovery is progressing to the point where I will be fishing before long. I will probably start out with panfish, as I know of a couple of honey holes. We will soon take a look at cleaning and preserving fish. Although not fun, it is a necessary part of the sport.

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