The hazard of repetition is real, and yet we are happy to go there. Seeming to play like a broken record (an expression that might be coming back, with the return of vinyl to popularity) is a small risk for us to take compared with the risk of skin cancer in Atlanta. The risk is greater in Atlanta than in most other places in the U.S. simply because of our Southern position.
Good News, Bad News
One in five Americans is likely to develop skin cancer, and that includes people in Chicago and Minneapolis, where sun season is measured in weeks, compared to Atlanta, where it is virtually year-round. Not only do Atlantans live in heightened risk of skin cancer, but consider, too, that skin cancer is by far the most common form of this dread disease.
There are just two bits of good news. Most forms of skin cancer are eminently treatable – if they are detected early. And skin cancer is considered the most preventable form. It all boils down to limiting your exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
The Prestige of Intelligence
The glow of a suntan became a badge of achievement when society afforded leisure time to very few. Most people in those days earned their livelihoods outdoors and made sun protection a way of life. Notice in those rare photos of real cowboys that their foreheads were pale – they always wore a hat and usually a big one. Civil War officers cultivated the beards they saw in portraits of pirates, partly for protection from the sun. Military and naval uniforms to this day are never complete without a hat, or “cover” as it is called in regulations.
The ways of limiting sun exposure were so universal in history that we tend to overlook them or take them for granted. It is past time to make pale the new prestige. Let’s just consider it a sign of intelligence.
Hats, Sleeves, and Sunscreens
Fashion and function together can become our allies. Hats are simply basic, even in an era of indoor careers. They fell out of fashion for men only in the 1960s. Prior to JFK, a man was not dressed for business without a hat, even though the hats were removed indoors. The Atlanta Braves baseball cap, which became a signal of membership all over the South, might not be correct business casual, but then, it is not as protective as a fedora or homburg, either. Women have known all along that hats are very becoming – an old term for “looks enhancing” – and their use should be explored with zest again today.
Naked limbs are not the only way to stay cool. In fact, they are not even the best way. Fabrics such as linen and seersucker were developed for tropical and equatorial climates. Chambray was adopted by the Navy for sailors who were on deck in every kind of weather, hot or hotter. So, long sleeves and trousers are cool, and worth the effort all through the year.
Finally, it is time to work sunscreen into your daily routine if you have not done so already. SPF 30 is good. SPF 50 or more is even better. A friend makes it his practice to put the sunscreen near his car keys to make the routine automatic.
Seeing Someone Regularly?
Whether you are seeing someone regularly or not in your social life, if you live in Atlanta, you should be seeing a board-certified dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin cancer screening. Self-inspection every day is important, but a dermatology appointment on a regular basis is the real key to early detection – the biggest indicator of success against skin cancer.