November 1, 2016

Have Fun Fishing, but..

A few years back I published a post regarding the dangers of sun exposure. I mentioned that I had a lot of sunburns when I was a boy and that I also didn't use proper skin protection during my younger life. I also focused on melanoma in that article and I showed you a picture of me, how I generally look when I fish. You may notice in that picture that I am mostly covered, all except my nose. Well, I'm sad to say that it's finally caught up with me.

About three months ago I happened to feel a little rough spot on my nose. It was small, less than a millimeter, but it persisted. I thought that it would be an actinic keratosis, a precancerous lesion commonly caused by sun exposure. These are usually taken care of by freezing them off or a topical cream.

Well,I saw a friend of mine, a dermatologist, and he took a shave biopsy. To my surprise, the histology returned as a basal cell carcinoma, a skin cancer. Fortunately basal cell carcinomas are usually not aggressive, but this small lesions was already invasive! Remember, it was so small that it could have easily been overlooked.

So today I had Mohs surgery. Mohs is a technique where tissue is removed, then examined under the microscope. If all the cancerous cells are contained in the specimen then no further tissue removal is required. If the borders are not "clear" then more tissue is removed and examined. This is repeated until all borders are "clear" of cancer cells.

Despite my lesion being so small my Mohs required two tissue removal sessions. Fortunately my defect is relatively small and will not require a skin graft, but I might not have been so fortunate, if I had not payed attention to my skin.

So why am I telling you this? Because you too may be at risk. If you have had a lot of sun exposure, especially with a fair complexion, like me, your risk of skin cancer may be increased. Have fun fishing tenkara, but know the risks and protect yourself.

Wear sun protection. Use sunscreen. Get your vitamin D through your foods and via a supplement. See you on the river -- I'll be the one wrapped up like a mummy!


  1. Yikes! Glad you caught it early. Thank you for your willingness to share this for the greater good.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I am thankful that you caught it before it metastasized. In my real job I work a lot with cancer patients who were not so fortunate. You are smart to cover up. I always carry spray on sunscreen in my rig. You never know when the urge to stop and toss a line might happen. I hate having to cover-up, but you reinforce how smart it is. I think I am going to add the face wraps to my wardrobe as well. I am so thankful you are O.K. I don't want to have my fixed line teacher off the rivers, streams, and creeks too long.

  2. Good catch early on. I know at least two people who have had to battle it.


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