Recently, I found out that my great-uncle, to whom I am not blood related and who is an extremely kind, smart and generous man, has been diagnosed with melanoma. My paternal grandmother also had skin cancer, before she died of unrelated causes, and my father has had some scary-looking but ultimately benign lumps removed in the past.
So, when this time of year comes around and I see scores of sun-worshippers on The Oval and hear my friends talking about going tanning in order not to be pasty for summer, it breaks my heart a little.
Skin cancer is so especially scary to me because, for the most part, it’s avoidable. It’s not breast cancer or prostate cancer that pretty much boils down to the luck of the genetic draw. By covering up, wearing sunscreen and not lying in tanning beds, you can greatly reduce your risk of cancer. Who wants to be orange like Snooki, anyway?
I’m not saying we should all wear long sleeves and pants the whole summer, or no one should ever set foot outside without wearing that heavy zinc sun block you see lifeguards put on their noses. But to sacrifice our health in the name of vanity strikes me as stupid, or at the very least, naïve.
Yes, the sun does have some benefits, namely that your body can convert sunlight into Vitamin D. But the amount of sun your body needs to keep in Vitamin D is nowhere near enough to get you bronzed. Besides, the sun’s negative effects greatly outweigh the benefits, especially when you can get Vitamin D supplements at the nearest Giant Eagle. Not only does going tanning, whether in a bed or on The Oval, greatly increase your risk of skin cancer, it also damages your skin and increases the number of wrinkles you’ll get in a couple decades. So yes, you’re tan and gorgeous today, but what about in a few years when you’re wrinkly and scarred from mole removal?
Yes, you’ll see me on the Oval this spring, and I might even wear my bikini. But I’ll also be wearing my handy sunscreen and heading inside after an hour or two. I’ve looked at the facts, and being tan is just not worth the risk for me – especially considering my family history.
I hope everyone else on The Oval has looked at the facts as well, and made the educated decision to protect themselves.