August 22, 2013

Look at the back of your hands

IF YOU HAVE a tiller-steered boat, take a look at the back of your hands. If you see any small patches of dry, scaly skin, you could have actinic keratosis, the precursor of skin cancer.

It took me a long time to figure out why I have a rough-textured spot of skin on each hand, but now I think I know. It’s the result of sitting for hours with a hand on a tiller. 
Actinic keratosis forms on skin that receives lots of sun, and while I’ve mostly been reasonably careful to cover up with long sleeves and broad-brimmed hats on hot sunshiny days, I’ve never worried about the backs of my hands.

I can’t think why.  It seems perfectly obvious now that they’d be sticking out there, all vulnerable, while the sunshine does its wicked worst. I never even considered gloves.  They were too yachty and pretentious for me.  And now I’m suffering for it.
My skin doctor has prescribed for me some powerful chemotherapeutic ointment that will raise painful blisters for four weeks or so, and then take as long again for the skin to get back to normal.  During this time, apparently, I’m supposed to wear gloves, to avoid the possibility of receiving more harm from sunlight.

Now I live in a part of the world that is not renowned for excessive sunlight (although I have to admit we’ve had a marvelous summer so far this year) but all the same I guess I will have to take the precautions suggested.
It’s going to be hard to wear gloves of any kind, but once I’ve got used to the idea (and the questioning looks of strangers) I shall have to decide what kind of gloves will go best with my Northwest outfit of hoodie, shorts, and sockless sandals.  I’m tempted by a Goth look of black leather and maybe a whip to go with them.  Or how about some white elbow-length dude-ranch gloves with those leather fringes and sparkly bits? Nah. Everybody knows a drug-store cowboy when they see one.  On the other hand I might look good in some demure gardening gloves with little pimples on them and pictures of pansies or something.

I know there are some very macho and fashionable yachting gloves out there with little bits cut off so your finger tips stick out daintily, the better to press the buttons on the satellite phone or grip your gin-and-tonic, but I still can’t bring myself to buy them.  I’d rather convert the tiller to wheel steering, and avoid the problem in the first place.
Anyway, the message is simple. Don’t forget what damage the sun can do to a hand on a tiller.  If you don’t wear gloves, slather the backs of your hands with a good sunscreen. And repeat every couple of hours. You really don’t want actinic keratosis.

Today’s Thought
When it comes to your health, I recommend frequent doses of that rare commodity among Americans — common sense.
— Dr. Vincent Askey, former President, American Medical Association.

Vigor’s Rules on Rust:
1 — On a saltwater boat, stainless steel isn’t.
2 — Rust delays its appearance to coincide with the expiry of the warranty.
3 — Rust erupts. Absolute rust erupts absolutely.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Ken said...

Maybe you could design some hand hats. A flap of white canvas with a maybe buff colored edge trimming that gently attaches with say a cotton string pull cord. Like a flat hand Tilley.

John Vigor said...

Wonderful idea, Ken. I'd be the belle of the ball.

John V.

momist said...

Cycling gloves are cheap and effective.