‘Night Runners’ initiative highlights melanoma risk

night runners

by Trail Running staff |

A new initiative has been launched to raise awareness of skin cancer among runners.

The Spot the Dot foundation, founded by melanoma patient Marije Kruis, has set up the "Night Runners" initiative in an effort to encourage runners to protect themselves more against the dangers of ultra-violet exposure. Skin cancer is one of the top three most common cancer types among young adults and dermatologists state that runners, as well as other outdoor athletes have an increased risk of developing it.

The "Night Runners" theme is inspired by Patti Smith's song Because the Night (Belongs to Lovers) and the fact that running in hours when UV rates are low is one of many ways we can protect our skin from sun damage.

Annual cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have increased by nearly 50%. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. It is usually caused by unsafe or excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays, which penetrate and damage the skin over time. Cancerous lesions are likely to appear in places exposed to the sun more often such as the face, neck, back and limbs. Skin cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, with a very good recovery rate. However, public awareness of the symptoms of skin cancer is currently low, meaning opportunities for vital early detection can be missed. This is what Marije and her campaign want to change.

According to a 2006 study by the Medical University of Graz, runners have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Dermatologists advise runners to cover up, apply sunscreen, and train when sunlight exposure is less intense.

UV light is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet rays – UVA and UVB. Both kinds of radiation can lead to skin cancer. Runners and others who like to be outdoors are especially at risk, particularly when the sun is high and their arms and legs are bare. And during many endurance events such as marathons and triathlons, competitors often spend time in the sun when ultraviolet rays are strongest – between 10am. and 4pm.

But even clouds, water, and wintry weather don’t lessen the chances of sun exposure. Most dangerous ultraviolet rays penetrate clouds and water. These rays also can bounce off snow and water, which increases their intensity. Cold weather won’t shield you, except for the fact that you’ll probably be wearing more clothing.

Spot the Dot encourages everyone to protect their skin in a way that suits them best. For example:

1. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher

2. Wear protective clothing

3. Seek the shade

4. Go out when the UV rates are lowest: the night belongs to runners!

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