Prediction #3: You Will Get Skin Cancer

by Randy Murray on August 4, 2010

Today’s prediction isn’t a pleasant one, but it’s practically guaranteed. It’s one of those “Good News/Bad News” things. Yes, you’ll probably live longer. And because of that and a number of other factors, you’ll have a very high chance of developing a serious illness – one that may kill you (which will make the whole living longer thing moot).

Skin cancer is very serious, but is viewed by many as “benign condition, almost an inconvenience.”  In 2007, over 8,000 people died from melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. And the rates for developing cancer and dying of it are increasing.

Being out in the sun is important and enjoyable. You need sun exposure to help your body generate Vitamin D and sunlight helps to improve your mood (the lack of sunlight can create or increase depression – just ask someone that lives in Ohio, one of the grayest places on the planet).

Why?

Fashion, misinformation, and climate change.

Fashion may be one of the biggest factors. For many years now, tanning for people with light colored skin has been promoted as attractive and healthy. I just returned from the beach and that’s clearly still the rule – and my daughter brought back pictures from her recent trip to Italy. I was shocked to see people in their 70’s and 80’s burned nut brown (let’s not even talk about the wrinkles!).

I grew up on a working farm and have spent literally thousands of hours in the sun, mostly unprotected. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent sitting on a tractor in the blazing sun. I remember how dark my arms would become, the famous “farmer’s tan.” I’m concerned about the damage I may have done early on and try to be more careful now.

I still see people visiting tanning salons and actively working to develop a “bronzed” look, a “glow”. You’re glowing because you’re burned, baby.

Misinformation: There is no safe level of tanning. All tans are radiation burns. Base tanning is still skin damage. And the use of tanning booths is a shocking example of intentionally damaging one’s skin for the sake of fashion. Imagine if bruises were suddenly to become fashionable. Would you go to a bruising salon to have yourself pummeled?

I love to be outside and love the beach. But I wear a hat and loose clothing AND try to wear sun block. I hate putting the stuff on, but it’s very important.

If your skin color is naturally dark, that’s not an automatic pass for skin cancer, either. Cover up!

Perhaps the most overlooked cause is the changes to our atmosphere and climate. Stratospheric ozone depletion is a serious threat and the damage that can be done in a short period of sun exposure is increasing.

I try not to sound too alarming, but it is serious. I love being outside enjoying the sun. And the benefits of proper exposure to the sun are clear.

What should you do? Wear a hat with a broad brim, cover up, use sun block, and limit direct sun exposure. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes (consider polarized lenses). Do not lie out in the sun or use tanning booths. And get a regular skin check from your physician. And if you do contract skin cancer, seek immediate and aggressive treatment.

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The Prediction #3: You Will Get Skin Cancer by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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1 Mari August 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Thank you, Randy, for bringing attention to the importance of moderate sun exposure vs. overexposure. Just this week I learned of a friend’s brother who succumbed to melanoma after being diagnosed one year ago with a spot under his fingernail!

Your earlier product review of Capsurz ( http://bit.ly/8X7yBI ), the only patented cap accessory cord that keeps your cap on your head, hands free, highlights “the indignity of a hat blown off or los(t)…forever,” but Capsurz’s true value is the assurance of sun protection.

Everyone knows how easy it is to lose their hat in windy conditions. Retrofitting your hat with a Capsurz sure beats spending outdoor time without a cap or having to spend more money to buy another. It’s particularly smart to shield your face by wearing a
hat and using sun screen. Capsurz prevents hats from irretrievably blowing away and winding up in the dirt, or run over or at the bottom of a lake.

Some people forfeit an important component of sun protection by thinking they look unattractive in a hat. You’ve presented the facts, Randy, for prudence over the misperception of a bronzed glow. Please have a look at our proposal for protecting Gulf oil spill volunteers from sun overexposure at the Pepsi Refresh Gulf project: http://gulf.refresheverything.com/windproofhats . Your votes count!

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