By Ivan Filner, DO, family medicine physician
Anyone who knows Dr. Filner knows that when he is not caring for patients, he can be found riding his Harley. In Arizona, we are fortunate to have many great months for long rides due to Arizona having more sunny days (85-90 percent per year) than almost all other states. In fact, we have more sunny days per year than California and Florida.
Have you ever heard the saying, “For every strength, there is a weakness?” This “law of opposites” applies to our good fortune in having so many sun-drenched days. The downside is more exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can result in premature aging of the skin and worse- skin cancer. Even on sunny days in winter, UV rays are just as harmful.
As a motorcycle rider, we wear protective gear from head-to-toe, so why would we need to worry about excessive UV ray exposure? Even with a full face helmet, parts of the face- primarily the nose, cheeks and lips- are exposed for longer than you think…long enough to put you at risk of a severe sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer, including melanoma.
Fortunately, protecting yourself from dangerous UV rays while riding is easy. Follow these tips year-round to ensure you’re riding for a long time to come.
1. Protect your face, neck, ears, and other exposed skin
Carry a small tube of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more in your jacket pocket, tank bag or panniers, and re-apply every two hours during your ride. If your sleeves do not quite meet your gloves, put sunscreen on your wrists.
2. Shield your lips
As your lips are also vulnerable to skin cancer, use a lip balm with an SPF of 30 (but no less than 15) and, like sunscreen, reapply throughout your ride.
3. Safeguard your eyes
Did you know melanoma can occur in your eyes? While they may be a bit more expensive, choose sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV protection, or UV 400 protection.
4. Protect the back of your neck
In addition to sunscreen, a light neck sock with an SPF rating is a good way to protect the back of your neck (and parts of your face), especially for sports bike riders who are bent over.
When many of us stop during our ride, we take off some gear, leaving more of our skin exposed to the sun. Be certain to apply sunscreen to those areas. A sunburn and/or the start of melanoma only take minutes, especially when in direct sun during our beautiful Arizona days.