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Why Skin Cancer Is on the Rise (Maybe)

Posted Jun 22 2010 6:02am
Why Skin Cancer Is on the Rise - Yahoo! News

The article above is interesting - but in my opinion, not the whole story.

When I was around 20 years old and working many hours a week at a horseback riding and boarding stable, I developed a rash on my chin and face that wouldn't go away. The owner of one of the horses I took care of was a sales rep for UpJohn and her beat was dermatology. She took one look at my rash and suggested I make an appointment with Dr. S, a very well known dermatologist who happened to have an office near the college I was attending. I made an appointment. I always try to get in first to see a doctor even if I have to wait weeks for the slot. I had an 8 a.m. appointment. When I got to the suite in the medical building, there was a line of 30 people snaking out the door of the waiting room. People were sitting on coffee tables, end tables, you name it. I had never seen so many people waiting to see one doctor in my life.

Dr. S diagnosed my rash as a bacterial infection from the chin strap on my riding helmet. Given that I was wearing it two, sometimes three to four hours a day, sweating profusely, and covered in dirt and God knows what else kicking up from the riding ring, I wasn't surprised.

But he surprised me by examining my ultra-pale skin and pronouncing my skin "beautiful." I'd never given much thought to my skin. I had never had the acne during my teen years; my skin was just there. Soap, water, done.

I was, however, so pale that every doctor I had ever seen immediately thought I was very ill, even when I was healthy! I am so pale that I need to buy a special makeup foundation color called "Alabaster" for many years; only Chanel made it that pale. I am the whitest white person you will ever see in your life.

Dr. S looked at my skin and said it was gorgeous. He recommended many things to me. When I asked him about sunscreen, however, he told me "No, just on your nose and face if you are at a horse show or at the beach all day. I'd rather see you cover up than wear sunscreen."

I was astonished. "Why?" he said.

"Because they don't work as well as people think they do.  They prevent a sunburn but many do not prevent skin cancer, despite what the articles claim.  And the sun helps you make vitamin D which you need."

Since that time I've told that story many times and have gotten a lot of flack for it. I tend to agree with Dr. S. I do wear sunscreen if I am going out all day because if I do not, I burn - I never tan. But I mostly avoid the sun during the midday period, wear long pants and a hat and long sleeves, and that is that.

If wearing sunscreen were all that we need to do to prevent skin cancer, the numbers would be down. I have seen some research linking our poor diets to increased skin cancer. I wish I could get my hands on it now, but the gist is that all the antioxidants in plants that we eat confer benefits include better resilience to skin changes.

Yes, the protective ozone layer is depleted - but it's actually better now than it was back in the 1960's before we realized what all those aerosol cans were doing to the environment.

Yes, people use tanning beds - but many people do not. In fact, I guess more do not than do use tanning beds.

But what is common now is that people are eating crappy diets filled with fast food, prepared food, additives and chemicals and lacking in plant foods. And it seems to me that plant foods do confer many benefits, including reduced risk of cancer - many types.

Dr. S never talked about my diet. I've been good about avoiding sunburns. Dr. S is long since retired, but I thank him for the advice, even though I had to wait a long time to get it.

So that's my two cents worth. Frankly, you couldn't pay this alabaster-skinned beauty to sit on a tanning bed. Never!
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