Wear Sunscreen ! – but not always – A BCC and Vitamin D story
7 min read
Here we are, living the dream, however you define that, in a most beautiful sunny Dubai. At the moment the weather is just perfect, typically 26/27C in the day and 21/22C in the evening. Getting out and enjoying the sun is a pleasure and one that, if you take a quick glance at my twitter and instagram feed, we are doing in some shape or form. Desperately enjoying the great weather before it turns too humid and way too hot to do anything other than hurriedly move between the air conditioned car to the air conditioned office, mall or apartment. Sounds great huh? and yes, if you are reading this from the UK or somewhere even colder or rainier it is and I love it and apart from being a full time fully sponsored world traveler (unlikely to happen – wake up !) I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be.
But we have a few issues here both of which have recently affected me recently and which I will put out there for you as alternative ‘Food for Thought’. What am I talking about ? Well – Vitamin D Deficiency and Skin Cancer. Don’t get too concerned, both are treatable and have been and I’m ok. Much as I love sharing stories of food, cooking and restaurants with you, I also, from time to time, share more serious issues regarding health, fitness, weight loss etc and so here I am again sharing something a little personal but very real.
It all started with a tiny, innocent little waxy spot/pimple on the side of my nose which wasn’t getting any bigger, but equally wasn’t going away. Thinking it was just a build up of sebum or something I left this little spot for a while (couple of months) before thinking that I should just google it and see if it was anything to worry about. Be warned : Google search when you are looking for medical things can be your friend and/or foe so I always try and carefully do my searching and try not to get too alarmed by the randomness of some of the results that come up. Eventually after a bit of trawling, and looking a various photo images it seemed to me that I had something which look similar to the photos I’d seen of Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC).
BCCs are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). BCCs often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars. Usually caused by a combination of cumulative UV exposure and intense, occasional UV exposure, BCC can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow, but almost never spreads (metastasizes) beyond the original tumor site. Only in exceedingly rare cases can BCC spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. (From SkinCancer.Org)
A quick trip to a Dermatologist confirmed my suspicion and a week later I was back at the surgery having the BCC removed. My BCC was very small – literally only 1mm in diameter which meant that it could be treated by using dry ice which burned away the skin around and below the BCC and in just over 2 weeks it had healed and was declared fully treated. The treatment was a little uncomfortable at the time but nothing unbearable, essentially the dermatologist dipped a cotton swob in liquid nitrogen and then held it against the spot for a little while, I could feel extreme cold and initially I had what looked like a small blister which then burst and started to heal after a few days. I was able to disguise the injury with makeup though it wasn’t too large to conceal.
Should you be worried ? Well yes and no – actually I’d say be vigilant. Living in the sun, puts us all at risk, being fair skinned exacerbates the risk as does a family history of skin cancer. However, BCC is the most common skin cancer, which rarely spreads or kills, but it can invade surrounding tissue and cause disfigurement. This is one of those things when getting it treated earlier is better than later. Just a few weeks after my minor treatment I saw this article on Apprentice Winner Michelle Dewberry who was also treated for BCC, but hers was much bigger and deeper than mine. I don’t want to scare you with images on this page, but if you are interested then click Here to see the full article.
So the advice is simple – be vigilant – watch your skin and seek advice for unusual changes. Wear sunscreen – at least SPF 30 – this applies to the guys as well as the ladies, and consider wearing a sunhat to shade your face from the rays.
You can find some more information about BCC on the Women’s Health Magazine page here >> LINK or by visiting the Skin Cancer Foundation here >> LINK
So here I am, on one hand telling you to cover up and wear sunscreen, and then on the other hand – I find myself telling you that I am also Vitamin D Deficient, and one of the main reasons for this is not spending enough time in the sun to allow my body to make Vitamin D. Ahh it’s a tricky balance this living in the sun.
Every year, I am subjected to some quite rigorous blood tests to check if I have enough vitamins and minerals following my weight loss surgery, it’s one of the annual checks which are fairly mandatory. This is now the 3rd year that I’ve been significantly deficient (I score 11 ng/ML – the idea range is 25-80 ng/ML) and I suspect I’ve been deficient anyway as a lot of the population are Vitamin D deficient. A recent article by the Dubai Health Authority >> here explains how a large amount of people are deficient in the Middle East and Africa.
Why does it matter ? Well Vitamin D is responsible for good health, growth and strong bones and since very little of it is found in food, we rely on our body making Vitamin D when we are in the sun. The solution to the deficiency is to try and get between 10-30 minutes in the sun most days without sun lotion if possible (can be done in little chunks of time) – a good article to read is by Dr Fatima from City Hospital in her article >> HERE . As my numbers are consistently low I’ve also got Vitamin D supplements to take to try and get my numbers up quickly.
So there you have it, a fine balancing act – Wear Sunscreen to protect against BCC, but allow some time without sunscreen to keep Vitamin D levels in check. The yin and yan of living here – two sides of the same coin – both with the word moderation somewhere along the middle.
In other health news, I’ve just had surgery for a deviated septum, the result of an old childhood injury (apparently girls are not a good substitute for wickets whilst playing cricket – I found this out the hard way – no, it’s not pleasant being hit in the face with a cricket bat!!).
The lesson learned here is that you should always get thoroughly checked out – a previous surgeon treated my constant sore throat and tonsillitis with a tonsillectomy this time last year – a horrible surgery and recovery to have as an adult. Since having this the throat problems have continued and I’ve had many rounds of antibiotics and down time.
A random visit to a new surgeon meant that he started by examining my nose, he did some tests (CT Scan) and says that actually the deviated septum (misaligned cartilage) in my nose from the wicket incident were actually the Cause of the sore throats and Tonsillitis was the Symptom. He says that bugs and bacteria being trapped in my misaligned nose was slowly dripping down my throat at night time meaning my body was always dealing with some bacteria in my throat – makes sense to me (sorry I hope you are not eating as you read this ?).
Though it’s early days, I’m only 2 weeks out of surgery – I think I agree – so far I am sore throat free. Lesson learned, treat the cause and not the symptom and girls really should never try to be cricket wickets !!
Hopefully that’s the end of my health updates for this year. Love, Live and Laugh