New sun study bad news for anglers

These 12 spots will put you on wintertime fish in the Biloxi Marsh.

My 84-year-old grandfather has had so much skin cancer surgery, it’s amazing he still has any dermis covering his body. A fair-skinned man of English descent, he worked his entire life as a glazer, and consequently spent nearly as much time outside as your average tree. It wasn’t until after he started getting the cancerous skin lesions more than 30 years ago that he began diligently applying sunscreen, but by then, as they say, the horse was out of the barn.

My grandfather taught me the value of sunscreen at a very early age. He’s the man who invested his weekends in teaching me how to fish, and it was forbidden for either of us to leave the dock without a healthy dose of the goop smeared all over our exposed skin.

I’ve used the fishing advice my grandfather gave me on those weekend trips to much avail, but being the knucklehead that I am, I sometimes forget to apply sunscreen until after my skin already is the color of a candy apple.

I know on the drive home what I’m going to hear as soon as I open the front door: “Don’t come crying to me when your skin looks like your Paw Paw’s” or “Why don’t you go along with your Paw Paw on his next cancer surgery?”

Yes, honey, you’re right. I know it. I just forgot — AGAIN.

But I’ve often mused aloud to my wife how ironic it would be if they found out that the ingredients in sunscreen actually caused cancer. Then all the numbskulls like me who typically forget to apply it would be better off than the more-diligent souls.

Well, according to research released last month, I may soon be somewhat vindicated.

A British study found that sunscreens do nothing to prevent a certain type of skin cancer. The problem is that sunscreens are very effective at blocking UVB rays, but they do little to stop the more-penetrating UVA rays.

“When ultraviolet A impinges on the skin, it triggers the release of highly reactive chemicals called free radicals, which we believe can induce a malignant change,” Professor Roy Sanders told BBC Radio. “Since ambient sunlight is principally ultraviolet A and since sunscreens protect mostly against ultraviolet B, if we use the sunscreens it may increase the risk of us developing a rather unpleasant cancer called malignant melanoma.”

That’s because people who apply sunscreens typically feel safer from the sun, and will consequently spend more time in it. But the whole time they’re out there, according to the study, the sunscreen is having no impact on the non-burning, cancer-causing UVA rays.

“We’re lulled into a sense of false security … and so people are inclined to take a much greater dose of the sun,” Sanders said.

The statistics, it appears, support the research. Cases of malignant melanoma have doubled every 10 years since the 1950s, and the cancer now kills around 1,500 people in Britain every year, according to Reuters.

Sunscreens are not without value, however. Even those that block only UVB rays protect against two other types of malignant skin tumors.

Until sunscreens that block all UVA rays are developed and marketed, anglers would be wise to wear wrap-around hats, long-sleeved shirts and, when possible, gloves in addition to sunscreen.

And don’t come crying to my wife if you forget.

About Todd Masson 739 Articles
Todd Masson has covered outdoors in Louisiana for a quarter century, and is host of the Marsh Man Masson channel on YouTube.