|When are we going to start seeing these as one and the same?|
Over the weekend, I spent a few hours catching up on my magazine reading. I'm one of those people who swaps airline miles for magazines subscriptions, so there's a lot of junk for me to sift through (guilty pleasure, whoops!)
Every month, it's the same: eat blueberries, they protect against cancer. Drink wine, it's good for your heart. Drink coffee, the caffeine is good for you! Then two months--if not two weeks later--it's the opposite. Don't drink alcohol, it's bad for you! Caffeine is bad for you. Smoothies are bad for you and so is Diet Coke (OK, I already knew about that one, but still.) Admittedly, science is a moving target. Our knowledge base is constantly evolving, and it's only fair for the media to share the latest research with the public. But with so much conflicting health information out there, how do we know what to do?
For example, doctors tell us we need vitamin D for bone health and to support our immune systems. On the other hand, one of the easiest ways for our bodies to synthesize vitamin D is to sit outside in the sun. Well, guess what? Sun causes skin cancer. It's a real "damned if you, damned if you don't." So what do we do? Because UV radiation has been proven to be carcinogenic in numerous studies, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends adjusting your diet or taking supplements instead of getting vitamin D from sunlight. The key here is that UV has been proven to be dangerous. Vitamin D from the sun versus from a supplement is still up for debate. Just one or two publications don't mean something is a fact. It can take years to establish compelling evidence that something is truly beneficial or harmful (and even then, sometimes we don't know for sure.) Based on a large number of studies over a long period of time, there is a clear link between UV radiation and skin cancer.
This all leads me to an article I read recently about teenagers rationalizing risky behavior like tanning bed use. More than half of the teens questioned in a study by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center said that they tanned because "everything causes cancer." To many, using a tanning bed seemed to hold about as much risk as walking across the street or eating a burger (cholesterol, hello!) Sure, tanning has been in the news a lot lately, but what makes using a tanning bed seem any more dangerous than the hundreds of other warnings we receive on a weekly basis? I fear that if every time I read one of my magazines that all the dos and don'ts are diluting warnings against behavior that is truly dangerous. The importance of taking care of our skin and avoiding tanning beds needs to rise to the level at which we educate our children about smoking, doing drugs, and driving without a seat belt.
I also found it interesting that 32% of teenagers said: "If tanning bed use was so bad for you, the government would ban tanning beds." Kids: have you taken a look at our government lately? Take health matters into your own hands, and don't trust the government to do it for you.