Cancer and Summer
Ah, summer. Especially in New England and other cold climates (although an easy winter this year), we dream of these warm, clear days and gorgeous late evenings. We have been enjoying a string of especially splendid days, and I hope that everyone has had time outside. I especially enjoyed planting annuals yesterday with my visiting 3 year old granddaughter. As I taught her the proper sequence, ending with her walking carefully around each small plant ("Walk as close to the plant as you can without stepping on it."), I remembered my own grandmother teaching me the same moves. I can hope that some day she will pass on the same tradition and have similar memories.
This contribution is from ASCO's Cancer Net and refers to the special concerns that cancer patients may have about hot weather. Note that these are really directed at people in treatment. Once you are done, you are pretty much back to your baseline.
Cancer and the Summer Months
Listen to the Cancer.Net Podcast: Cancer and the Summer Months, adapted from this content.
Summertime brings sun, heat, and outdoor activities that may present challenging health and lifestyle issues for people living with cancer. To enjoy the summer while staying safe, follow these tips:
Limit sun exposure. For people undergoing cancer treatment, too much sun may be unsafe. For example, intense sun exposure may further weaken the immune system in a person receiving chemotherapy. In addition, sun exposure while undergoing chemotherapy with fluorouracil (5-FU, Adrucil) may lead to more intense skin reactions and possible sunburns. People undergoing radiation therapy or just finishing treatment should also avoid the sun because skin exposed to radiation therapy is very sensitive to the sun's rays. Consider the following precautions when outside in the sun:
Limit sun exposure from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, which is when the sun's rays are the most intense. Schedule any outdoor activities for early or late in
the day. Spend time in the shade, whenever possible.
Use a broad spectrum sunscreen (offers protection against both ultraviolet A [UVA] and ultraviolet B [UVB] rays) with a solar protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and reapply it often, especially after sweating or swimming. Ask the doctor to recommend a sunscreen for sensitive skin, in case the sunscreen further irritates skin that has been exposed to radiation therapy.
Protect the area of skin being treated. Dark, tightly woven fabrics offer better sun protection than light, thin, and loosely woven materials. Protect your head and ears with a broad brimmed hat. If you have lost your hair, the exposed skin will burn easily. Keep surgical scars well-covered. If scars are exposed to the sun, especially newer scars, the sun will eventually darken the scars.
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