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RVing and Skin Cancer

/July 5, 2022

This looks like a strange topic for an RV blog, but this year there will be 100,000 cases of Melanoma in the US and 10,000 people will die from this deadly disease. Here are some other statistics that are equally alarming.

  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70
  • Two people die of skin cancer in the US every hour
  • Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma
  • When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent.

We are RVers love the outdoors and adventure, so when we hit out campgrounds we are out and about. Harmful rays from the sun are constantly on us even in cloudy weather.

Two months ago, I was diagnosed with Melanoma. I go in every year to see my dermatologist, just to get checked and besides a few keratosis (non-lethalpre cancerous spots) I have never had anything to worry about. This check up was different. I almost skipped my checkup because I wanted to get on the road and head out to our place in Colorado.  But something told me to wait another week to see the doctor just in the very slight chance that I might have another keratosis.

Thank God, I went in. My dermatologist’s PA usually does the checkup. She noticed a little spot on the side or my scalp, no bigger than a quarter of you small fingertip, that she thought was worth a closer look. They had biopsied some of my spots before and they always came back negative.

This time was different. Two days later, I got a call from the doctor’s office that was urgent and that I needed to come in immediately.  I was given the unwelcome news that I had Melanoma the deadliest form of skin cancer. No matter how big the spot, melanoma cells can migrate and spread into the blood stream and other organs. Although the spot was ridiculously small, the surgeon took out a baseball sized piece of skin from my head to make sure it was all gone.  This is a customary practice so even though I am now cured, I have some scars to show for it.

Specific lab tests on a skin sample of my spot were the only way to predict my chances of survival.  Melanoma is diagnosed in four stages.  Stages 1 and 2 have the highest survival rates ranging from the high 80’s to 99% if the cancer is highly localized, not deep, and not spread. If my cancer were in stage 3, my survival rate would drop down to 60% and in stage 4 it would drop to 20%. Needless to say, it was a tense 2 day wait for the lab report.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was in stage 1, with no spread and no invasion into lower layers of the skin. I will take that 99% chance of survival any day. But many others are not so lucky. Fortunately, this extra week of waiting to take off for our RV trip, saved my life.

This is such an insidious disease. People with only a small spot between their toes which seem to be nothing, can kill them.  So, how can we protect our selves against Melanoma on our sometimes-bumpy road to Adventure? Obviously, frequent skin checkups by a good Dermatologist are essential for finding Melanoma early. Bue even better is to not have it in the first place. Pre-emptive actions are the best remedy so that you do not get it in the first place.


Four things you can do to protect yourself form skin cancer

We never push products on our web site for money.  We only recommend products that we use and find especially unique and helpful to our RV audience. Here are three potential life savers that we now assiduously use.


1. A Tilley Brimmed hat. Baseball hats are relatively useless against the sun unless you only want to protect your nose. Wide brimmed hats are the best and a Tilley has some unique features. They are sun resistant, they have air vents, are relatively light weight and waterproof, they float if dropped in the water, and they have a lifetime warranty. They are expensive, somewhere in the $60-$80.00 range. They are made in Canada, but you can get them on line or even at places like ACE hardware or places like wells marine.Some models comes with under chin strings to keep them on in hight winds and some button up the sides like and Australian soldiers hat.. I now wear my tilly every time I am outside and often inside the RV when sun comes in through the windshield or side window.

A Tilley Brimmed hat

2. UV Protected Compression Arm Sleeves. One of my past friends was a local police officer and head of our towns police department. He spent many hours in his cruiser in a short-sleeved shirt that rested on the cars door; exposed for hours in the sun. He died at the age of 55 from a melanoma that formed on his are.


We do much of our Rving in the west, southwest, and Florida. We like to RV where the sunshines. I prefer short sleeve shirts and like my Police friend, the sun often shines in the side window of our RV.  You probably see a number of us RVers with that tell-tale one-armed tan. I now where one or both of these elastic UV sleeve covers when I am outside in a short sleeved shirt or just one on my left sleeve when I am driving. They are elastic, come in varied sizes, they breath and wick moisture, but most importantly they block UV rays.


We get our UV sleeves on Amazon in a three pair pack of different colors for right around $20.00.


The distributor/manufacturer four our sleeves is Outdoor Essentials.

UV Protected Compression Arm Sleeves


3. Columbia UV Protectant Long Sleeve Shirts. Normally, I prefer a short sleeve shirt with my compression sleeves, but after my diagnoses I  alsowent to a Columbia outlet and bought a couple of long sleeve UV resistant shirts.  They are light weight, very smart looking and clearly protectant of your body. Many short sleeve shirts that are loosely woven let in a lot of sun, but Columbia’s UV shirts are purpose build for filtering out much of the Sun’s harmful rays.  I don’t particularly like the acetate material they use which can hold body odor if you have a tendency to sweat under the arms, but they are one of the few shirt manufacturers that make this type of sun protectant shirt.  I got mine at the Columbia Factory Outlet Store in Fort Myers Florida. On sale they were around $40.00.Online prices are about the same.


Columbia UV Protectant Long Sleeve Shirts


4. Ulta MD Skin Care UV Shield SPF 45. In the past, I have been agnostic about sun tan lotion. Any brand was fine, and I usually went for SPF 25-30. But after my bout with skin cancer, I have gone to elta md skin care. This was the only sunscreen my doctor wants me to use and at least twice a day if not more. I thought sunscreen was just sunscreen, but this seems to be different. Again, we get no kick back from the company nor do we usually recommend products unless we have used them and think they are unique in some way. We buy the large 7 oz bottle with a pump dispenser. It is pricey ($44.00 at Walmart) but lasts a long time. Make sure to get the UV shield brand as this is the one recommended by out particularly good dermatologist.


I wish I had been more diligent in these precautionary steps earlier in life. But of course, we feel invincible when we are young. Hopefully, these suggestions will help protect you from that beautiful, warm seemingly friendly sun.


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