Sunburn [Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2005, 7:35 pm]
Apparently summer in Maine was only 5 days this year. It's raining again. Wouldn't it be cool if the temperature dropped to zero tonight, killing all the mosquitoes and black flies, and then shot back up to 70 next week so we could enjoy a pesky-bug-free rest of the summer? Nah, I doubt that will happen.
The good news is, I haven't been sunburned yet. You know, I've been thinking a lot about sunburns, and skin cancer lately. Now please realize, I'm no medical expert, and just because some people are doesn't mean they know exactly what's going on either. But I'm just going to throw some theories around - if only because I know how much you all enjoy what goes on inside my head (kidding).
I'm sure just about everyone in America has heard from one source or another that being sunburned is bad for you, and tanning beds are unhealthy. Now, personally I've never used a tanning bed anyway, because I really don't see the point of trying to turn my skin a different color.
And we've all heard that it's a good idea to wear sunblock when we're exposed to sunlight, because too much sun can cause skin cancer. But I recently found out that there's another angle to all this. There are some people who believe that it's actually the sunblock people wear that causes skin cancer, not the sun itself.
At first I thought: why should there be so much danger from something as natural as the sun? I mean, people have been exposed to the exact same sun over the centuries, haven't they? Why is skin cancer such a big deal all of a sudden? But then, maybe it's not the sun or the invention of sunblock that's changed - maybe it's our culture.
It should be noted that people (Americans, anyway) nowadays wear much less clothing than people did a long time ago (for the most part). Ever seen photos of those women around the turn of the century who wore long-sleeved dresses in summer, with bonnets and parasols to keep the sun off them? Why did it used to be considered ugly for women to have tans? Hmmm - maybe these people were onto something.
Why did men always used to wear hats, all the time? I once saw a photo of a very poor mining family from the late 1800's that had something like 8 young sons, and they were all dressed in shabby clothing - but they all had hats. If they were considered essential pieces of clothing, even to poor people - well, maybe there was a reason for that. Maybe there was a reason why women used to consider white skin beautiful and skin tanned (by the sun) to be bad.
Maybe there's more to it than just fashion sense.
Of course, I thought, if the sun is so natural, how could it hurt us? But then, water is natural too, and people still drown in it. It's not a bad thing in itself, but just like everything else, it's possible to have too much. So personally I don't buy the idea that it's sunblock that causes skin cancer. Maybe that explains why people with darker skin usually descended from cultures around the equator - because they can handle more sun. Maybe it's also an incentive to cover up more in summer.
Joe Panello: "Rusty, I no like-a the West. All the people do is kill each other! I'd like-a the West much better if it was in the East."
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009