An ozone alert, skin cancer, and sun sleeves

Skin cancer is a thing for people (such as cyclists) who spend a lot of time outdoors. But first, allow me the opportunity to inform you that the second San Francisco Bay Area Spare the Air Alert of 2015 has been announced for Wednesday, July 29, 2015. Ozone concentrations will be especially high in the Santa Clara Valley (again), and the inland areas of the East Bay. Although today’s air quality along the Pacific Coast rates as “Good” today, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District forecasts unhealthy levels of ozone for the entire Bay Area tomorrow. You’re encouraged to limit your driving to help keep smog levels down.

Now, let’s talk about this map, which shows the UV Index forecast for select cities.


UV Index Map July 29 2015

The red dots show a “very high” level of UV exposure, while purple is considered “extreme.” Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is a significant risk factor for skin cancer, both melanoma skin cancer, and non-melonoma skins cancers such as basal cell and squamous cell cancers. I know two avid cyclists who passed in their 30s from melanoma. In both cases, the cancer had metastasized to the brain. Disease progression was quick and devastating.

Please, for the sake of your family and friends, use sunscreen when you go out, especially on high UV days. That low-level smog-creating ozone does nothing to screen ultraviolet radiation. We need stratospheric ozone for that.

Sun sleeves

You may have seen Asian women who wear long sleeves in light colors to protect themselves from the sun. A few years ago, manufacturers began offering sun sleeves for summer cycling. These are very similar to arm warmers but made with a lightweight, breathable fabric.


Pearl Izumi sun shields

Pearl Izumi sent a pair of their white sunsleeves earlier this summer for me to evaluate. PI claims UPF 50+ protection. I’ve found them to be comfortable for a good half day of riding in warm (high 80s F) weather. The grippers in the upper arm become noticeable after a full day of sweating in them. After that much time I’ve peeled the sleeves off, but that’s no worse than lotion type sunscreens, which you sweat off after a couple of hours.

This obviously doesn’t protect the parts of your skin beyond your arms. You still want sunscreen on your upper back and neck, ears, face, and legs when out for an extended period of time in the sun.

For 2015, Pearl Izumi improved the arm gripper over the previous year and they use a lighter fabric. I am very rough on my gear, but nothing has ripped, failed or unraveled on these Sun Sleeves (yet). Pearl Izumi says to use gentle detergents, but I just throw these sleeves into the wash with the rest of my sweaty cycling kit after I ride. The reflective PI logo on the lower sleeve is still in good shape after perhaps a half dozen washings.

Only one person has given me crap about wearing “leg warmers” on my arms during the summer. He’s a friend who is not a cyclist. Most people pretty quickly figure out the purpose of the Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves and nod approvingly.

Available at outdoor retailers such as REI, and specialty running, triathlete and cycling stores that carry Pearl Izumi. You can even occasionally find it on Amazon, which benefits me if you purchase through that affiliate link.

11 Comments

  • July 28, 2015 - 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I never check the ozone alerts for Chicago. I might occasionally see them on the NWS’s Twitter feed. I typically will ride for 30-45 minutes during the morning and around 5 PM so this is giving me pause about forgoing sunscreen.

  • July 28, 2015 - 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Here in Tucson, I wear sleeves every time I ride. I had a precancerous spot removed from my nose 3 years ago so I don’t fool around anymore. Hat, sunscreen, sleeves and gloves and I am pretty much covered.

  • July 28, 2015 - 4:03 pm | Permalink

    wait i thought we were all supposed to drive as it’s not healthy to ride bikes outside today…

  • July 28, 2015 - 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Bike to reduce emissions, but don’t bike because it’s unhealthy.

  • July 28, 2015 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m a little surprised to see high UV levels in Chicago. You’d think higher latitude would help.

  • July 29, 2015 - 1:36 am | Permalink

    Yeah you’re Right Skin cancer May be cause for staying outside for long time but if we join this new event that will take pace in Indoor?

  • July 29, 2015 - 7:16 am | Permalink

    Unlike most cycling scare stories, THIS really IS a risk, albeit not a crash bang sort.

  • July 29, 2015 - 8:10 am | Permalink

    This is why I am trying to form the habit of putting on sunblock before every ride now while I am still in my twenties. Since I hate the feeling of sunblock on my skin, these sound ideal.

  • July 29, 2015 - 9:22 am | Permalink

    I’m with you on sunblock; I use it but it still has a certain ick factor for me.

    Do you still wear a sport jacket when riding?

  • January 22, 2016 - 3:49 am | Permalink

    This is a big concern for me everytime i go out. So, i gradually form a habit of applying sunscreen and appliance to anti-sunlight even though i hate that job a lot. These seem interesting. THanks

  • sarah
    June 24, 2017 - 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for post.

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