One benefit of going on vacation is that it allows my family to catch up on some reading. Well, at least for my wife. I found myself honing my Angry Birds and Words With friends skills more so than reading, but it was relaxing nevertheless. Still, my wife was kind enough to share some of the more interesting magazine articles…particularly those associated with skin cancer.
One of the rags she buys is Woman’s World Magazine. This is a typical supermarket tabloid that contains beauty and weight-loss tips as well as other small blub-like articles. Nothing too in depth…just right for mindless vacation reading. She shared one such article regarding some of the tricks to prevent skin cancer. Oddly, applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing wasn’t on the list. Most of the tips included drinking red wine and eating dark chocolate. But one section caught my eye as being something contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere:
“Hard to believe, but science proves it: Those of us who spend most of our time indoors are actually at higher risk of skin cancer than folks who have outdoor jobs! Turns out, regular, moderate sun exposure actually protects your skin in two ways: by increasing its production of natural sun block melanin and its production of cancer-fighting vitamin D3, explains Michael Holick, M.D., professor of medicine at Boston University.”
This seemed to support the “base tan” theory which most every dermatologist would state is completely incorrect. So I contacted my friends at the Melanoma Education Foundation and asked for their opinion. They responded that Dr. Holick is known for his pro-tanning beliefs and was highly paid ($150,000 a year) for bring a spokesperson/advocate for the Indoor Tanning Association. It looks like the infamous Dr. Mercola has a buddy. That fact pretty much says it all.
MEF addressed the so-called facts of this article by stating that people who have indoor jobs tend to not wear sunscreen during these breaks (and during commutes) and thus receive unprotected exposure. Those who are exposed to the elements all day typically wear sunscreen and protective clothing. (I’ve noticed many DOT workmen wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and hats even in scorching heat). Being more protected in the sun has nothing to do with increased melanin (base tan) or vitamin D.
Needless to say, I was disappointed that this well-read magazine had some pretty irresponsible reporting.
My wife later handed me a Ladies Home Journal. In it was an article by their Health Director, Julie Bain which chronicled her life-long battle with skin cancer. Notice that I said skin cancer and not melanoma. This was the eye-opening aspect of this article.
Ms. Bain spent her youthful summers vacationing lake side in Minnesota taking all the precautions that many of us did against the sun…none. Later in life, she’s paid the price. While she’s never been diagnosed with melanoma, she’s had as many as seven occurrences of basal cell carcinoma and one instance of squamous cell carcinoma. If I recall correctly, she’d gone through Mohs surgery at least twice, maybe more. Regardless, each occurrence caused a scar, and sometimes to disfiguring levels. Many of the spots occurred on her forehead…not the most discrete place to hide a scar or two or four.
Her article was brave and informative. Many of us focus on melanoma as the beast…and rightfully so. This article points out that even if the skin cancer encountered is one of the easy “cut it out” kind, it can be a demon in its own right.
I applaud the Ladies Home Journal for this great article about the consequences of ignoring sun safety (although I was disappointed that it appeared in the back pages). There’s no online link to the full article, but here’s a link to a shortened version. I also encourage you to find it from the magazine directly (June 2012 edition).
I condemn the Woman’s World magazine for the disappointing and somewhat irresponsible article which includes sun safety advice from someone on the tanning industry’s payroll. I would hope that they do a little research on their sources and not assume “Dr.” means “unbiased expert.”
I hope your summer is filled with relaxing moments of reading (or Angry Birds). But if an article captures your attention, please do a little online research and check the validity of any “facts” that seem contrary to what you’ve learned.