Beat the Heat During Cancer Treatment


If you’ve ever ridden RAGBRAI or detasseled corn, you’ve experienced the full force of the Iowa summer sun. Now imagine doing so while undergoing cancer treatment. 90 degrees feels like a furnace, and it’s hard to find relief. Summer heat can trigger hot flashes, interact with medications and lead to dehydration and other health problems.

Special Precautions for Cancer Patients

Cancer treatments can significantly raise your risk of sun damage. Certain types of chemotherapy increase your sensitivity; some antibiotics and diuretics make you more prone to sun rash or sunburn. Hair loss caused by chemo exposes your scalp to harmful rays.

Radiation therapy makes the affected areas of your body more vulnerable to the sun, especially during the first year after treatment. Scars from surgery are also especially sun-sensitive, so keep them covered even if you’re wearing sunscreen.

Tips for Sun Protection

Follow these tips to stay safe in the sun:

  • Wear protective clothing and hats. Use an umbrella or other sunshade for extra coverage.

  • Clothing doesn’t offer complete protection, so always apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Ask your doctor to recommend a sunscreen for sensitive skin.

  • Limit your sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.

  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from damage.

  • Eat light meals and drink plenty of fluids. It helps if your beverages supply electrolytes, like Gatorade or Pedialyte. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine as they can promote dehydration.

  • Wash chlorine off after swimming in a pool and apply light moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.

  • Take a cool shower before bed to reduce hot flashes at night.

If you’re a cancer survivor, you also need to be vigilant. Past treatments or medication side effects may increase your risk of dehydration and sunburn.

Keep Cool & Carry On

Of course, Iowa summers are followed by Iowa winters, so you’ll want to enjoy sunny days while they’re here. So make yourself a refreshing smoothie, follow the tips above and bask in the blue skies of a bright summer.