November 23, 2012

Body Armor: How to Hide from Fish and Melanoma

Over the past 26 years of practicing medicine I have witnesses a number of people die from melanoma. Some of these people were dead within a year from their initial diagnosis, but a number had the primary lesion removed only to have it recur in a different part of their body decades later. Melanoma is a nasty cancer. If you don't know about it then I want to scare the @#*% out of you so that you can protect yourself against it. Here are some statistics regarding melanoma that I have shamelessly plagiarized from  the Melanoma Research Foundation

Looks innocent doesn't it -- Don't bet your life on it!

The statistics around melanoma are astounding:
  • One-in-50 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.
  • In 2009 nearly 63,000 were diagnosed with melanoma in the United States, resulting in approximately 8,650 deaths. 
  • The projected numbers (according to the National Cancer Institute) for 2012 are even higher with 76,250 diagnosis and 9,180 deaths
This means that every eight minutes, someone in the United States will be given a melanoma diagnosis and that every hour someone will die from the disease.   

Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and worldwide.

  • The American Cancer Society estimates that the risk of developing invasive melanoma in the United States is 1 in 41 and 1 in 61 for men and women, respectfully. This averages out to approximately a 1 in 50 chance of developing melanoma throughout your lifetime. 
  • The incidence of people under 30 developing melanoma is increasing faster than any other demographic group, soaring by 50 percent in young women since 1980. 
  • Melanoma primarily affects individuals in the prime years of life, is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old. 
  • Although melanoma is most common in Caucasians, melanoma can strike men and women of all ages, all races and all skin types. The mean age for diagnosis of melanoma is 50, while for many other cancers it is.

Ahem.  Do I have your attention now? Yes, melanoma is bad -- really bad, but it is preventable the vast majority of the time!

I have fair colored hair, it was reddish when I was young, but must less so now. Folks like me are at the highest risk for melanoma, but even you brunettes are at risk. So, over the past decades I have been trying to protect myself from this monster. It so happens that tenkara has helped me in my fight to avoid getting melanoma.

Recently Jason Klass of Tenkara Talk published a post about how to not spook fish. In that post he mentioned that one way to keep from spooking fish was to wear clothing that does not increase your profile or make you more visible to the fish. I too agree with this, but here I want to argue that your clothing should be more than that -- it should also help protect you against sun damage and melanoma!

from Skin Cancer Foundation

There are different components of the sun's rays that can be damaging to your skin. These are UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA, not absorbed by the atmosphere,  penetrates the skin more deeply and is a major contributor to skin cancers. UVB, somewhat absorbed by the atmosphere, causes most of the sun burns and causes less DNA damage than UVA ,but it can contribute to melanoma as well as cataract formation. UVC is totally deadly, but fortunately the atmosphere removes it. 

To combate both UV skin damage AND hide from my fish quarry I have adopted the practice of wearing body armor. No, it's not chain mail or a kevlar jacket. I wear UPF clothing that is also camo by design!

UPF clothing, or ultraviolet protection factor clothing, is clothing with materials or additives which absorbed harmful UV rays and protect against shin damage. A UPF rating of 40 is considered excellent since only 1/40th of the UV rays are allowed to penetrate to the skin. UPF 40 blocks 97% of harmful UVA and UVB. Synthetics, like polyester, block UV rays really well, but natural fibers like cotton are much less effective. Unbleached cotton is better than the more commonly used bleached cotton, but additives must be used to get cotton up to par with polyester.

I use AquaDesign hats, shirts and gloves. AquaDesigns makes sun protection clothing (UPF 50+) specifically for fisherman. They are a little expensive but I like the design options, fit and protection. 

For shirts I prefer ones with a collar and pockets, so I wear their Fly Fishing shirt. It has a nice fit and it breaths really well keeping me cool, even on the hottest days. I have one of each of Green Bayou and Pacific Sand.  

Green Bayou
Pacific Sand

I also wear one of their hats, the Voyager Fishing Cap.  It has a long brim and is antiglare. It has a neck cape, but I don't use that. I prefer to use a Buff.  I like the UV Mossy Oak Duck Blind.  It not only protects my ears with a UPF of 30+ but also my face, as I usually pull it up over my chin, cheeks and nose. Sunlight reflecting off water is dangerous as well. 

Voyager Fishing Cap

For the back of my hands I use AquaDesign's fingerless gloves or Buff Pro-Series Angler Gloves Skoolin Sage. They are both nice but I think I like the Buff's a little better since they have contact point pads that reduce the pressure on my fingers. Also, the AquaDesign gloves really stink after holding fish, even if you wash them. For some reason the Buff's don't. 

So why don't I just wear sunscreen? Because I don't like its smell or feel. They always say "non-greasy" but they always feel greasy! Also, to be effective and not just cosmetic, you have to re-apply about every 1-2 hours depending on the formulation. If you are sweating, then every hour. 

For my eyes I wear UV blocking polarized glasses. I'd rather not get cataracts, a pterygium, or ocular melanoma either!!

When it gets a little chilly, I wear a Cabelas Lookout Fleece Jacket. It fits well, but is not too loose. It also has a hood if I need a little more head warmth. It has three pockets: two hand warmer and one chest. The chest pocket is perfect for a camera or cell phone.

So, how do I look with all this stuff on? Like this!

Wearing Cabelas jacket, since it is now cold outside.

Laughing, aren't you. Well, I'm glad to amuse you and brighten your day, but I try to control what I can when it comes to cancer prevention. I am an American however, so that means I eat too much, exercise too little and my cholesterol is a little too high, but I'll be jiggered if I get melanoma just because I don't want to look like a camouflaged Jacob Marley! Besides, all that Arkansas formal wear makes me look stealthy -- even if I don't catch fish!!


  1. Good advice. I see so many anglers on the stream wearing a baseball cap which, of course, offers no protection to the ears and neck. Although I don't wear a Buff, I do wear a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves, even in summer. A little sunscreen on the hands, and I'm ready to go.

    1. A wide brimmed hat and sunscreen are great sun protection. I used to wear a Tilley but I've changed as of late.


  2. Excellent advice! I wear a buff and wide brimmed hat. I also use camo or earthtone long sleeved shirts. It really makes a difference on the clear streams and spooky fish of SE Idaho. I fish most of the same waters you do.

    I think I ran into you on the stream you were fishing on abt July 27th or so. I came up from downstream of you through the brush.

    1. Yes, I remember! It was July 25th according to my fishing log. Boy, the water was low that day wasn't it. Still that stream is such fun to fish! Hope to see you out there next summer!



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