Monday, June 16, 2008

Chillin' in FL, and thoughts on sun worshipping

Well, I'm back in Florida for a few days visiting my parents. I do have to say that I've forgotten how hot and humid it is here. It wasn't so bad acclimating this time since we had that heat wave in Philly right before I left. Still, even with my powers of temperature resistance, I still feel somewhat uncomfortable when it's [slightly over] 80 degrees inside the house. If I didn't have a fan blowing on me, I'd probably be too lethargic to do anything.

It's been nice going to Spruce Creek park every morning. I can see why my parents go so often. It is a pleasantly peaceful view on the water for some morning stretching, qigong, and light exercise. If there is a breeze, it's even pleasant. Of course, there wasn't much breeze the first two days, so I had to re-adapt to the feeling of constantly sweating in the sticky warm Florida air.

On another note, I recently read an article about a dermatologist who didn't believe tanning and sun exposure were linked to melanoma. Of course, this is interesting news for someone from a land of tanned people. It's an opinion that's definitely not in line with the mainstream thinking. Just do a Google search for sun exposure and melanoma, and you'll get a ton of hits to sites saying that excessive sun exposure leads to melanoma. Unfortunately, I can't find the original article, but I'll summarize the arguments I've heard so far in my brief research:

Mainstream Thinking: Sun is Bad
  • High incidence of sunburn, particularly during adolescent years and for fair skinned folk, is linked to higher incidence of melanoma
  • UV rays cause skin aging and DNA damage
  • Use of tanning booths is also linked to melanoma
The Contrarian View: Sun Avoiders are Loonies
  • UV is necessary for vitamin D production
  • Some studies show that people from sunnier climes actually have lower incidence of melanoma
  • Melanoma more likely develops on the parts of the body that don't receive as much sun exposure (palms, soles of feet, and other parts where the sun don't shine)
  • The parts of the body with a lot of sun exposure typically develop benign basal and squamous cell skin cancers.
This is certainly not a complete or thoroughly researched comparison, but it's good enough this blog post's purposes.

So, what's the word on sunning and skin cancer? My guess is that the truth probably lies somewhere in between the two extremes. There are interested parties on both sides (cosmetic industry sellers of sunscreen vs. tanning salon operators for instance) skewing evidence and making one-sided arguments. Moderate sun exposure probably isn't as bad as the mainstream thinking goes. The UV from sun exposure does help you produce vitamin D, and there is some evidence that tanning helps prevent melanoma. On the other hand, fair skinned people (notably blondes and red heads) might need to worry more about getting less sun exposure than people that tan easily or have darker skin pigmentation. In addition, just because getting some sun is probably good for you, going overboard has the big disadvantage of aging your skin and running the risk of getting really uncomfortable sunburn.

I'm sure I get plenty of sun exposure just walking around outside during my everyday life. I think I'll just enjoy the shade as much as possible to stay cool and comfortable in the hot summer months.

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