Let me begin by addressing my mostly naked friend Don Schrader who is bound to write a letter in refute of this column: Don, a tan is not healthy. In medical terms, a tan is the result of the body's largest organ—the skin—attempting to protect itself from the sun's ultraviolet rays by producing more pigment. A tan—no matter how light or dark—therefore, indicates skin damage. Period.
Granted, Don, a little exposure to the sun is healthy. In fact, a few minutes in the sun causes skin cells to produce as much vitamin D as that contained in 80 ounces of milk, without the fat or cholesterol. And sufficient vitamin D is essential in combating some forms of cancer, heart disease and several other things that can kill you. The operative phrase, though, is "a few minutes." You don't have to get baked to get enough vitamin D, and the more baked you do get, the more likely you are to eventually develop skin cancer.
White men are twice as likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and quite a bit more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than white women. And melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—has, in the past three decades, seen a fatality rate that has risen more than 150 percent in older white men. (As it ages, the skin is less efficient at defending and repairing itself.)
Why are Anglo people more likely to get UV-related skin cancer? Because our forefathers felt it necessary to invade and inhabit lands where our cream cheese skin wasn't suited to the climate. Call it nature's affirmative action. However, damage having been done, you can protect yourself ... cracker.
• Use sunscreen: Don't bother with the weak-ass shit or anything containing PABA. Sunscreens below SPF 15 are a waste of money. Get the highest SPF you can find and slather your entire body with it. Often. "Doesn't wear off in water ..."—don't believe the hype! Just keep putting that creamy shit on while you're out there trying to make the beach chicks think you're a bad ass by doing doughnuts on a rented JetSki. Oh, and put it on before you go outside, genius.
• Tanning beds are not a safe alternative to the sun: What are you, stupid? You might as well take the money you're spending on your tanning bed contract, buy a handgun and ammo, and shoot yourself in the face. Or buy 50,000 packs of cigarettes and smoke them as fast as you can.
• Most clothing will not protect you: Dark-colored, heavy clothing is better protection than cotton T-shirts and linen beach pants. But no one wears jeans and sweaters at the beach. Your dry, white T-shirt provides a protective factor of a whopping five. When it's wet, you might as well not be wearing it at all.
• "Hey, this mole looks weird!:" You might have skin cancer. You might die. However, if you get the suspect mole looked at by a doctor early, you might have a chance at a few more years. Is your mole: ragged around the edges? Asymmetrical? Varied in color? Increasing in size? Larger than half the size of a dime? You could be a cancer patient. Go see your doctor.
• Learn to love your pasty, white skin: Tans are overrated displays of vanity that do little more than scream, "Hey, check out my pectoral implants and increased potential for dying real soon." Sure, we all look more attractive when we're a darker shade of pale thanks to People magazine, but do you really give a shit how golden brown your friggin' corpse is gonna be?
I'll fight you over this one, Don (but only in the most nonviolent, vegetarian, nontax-paying way). The sun, in all its life- and light-giving glory, is not good for your skin in large, naked doses.