(Yeah, But It’s a Dry Heat Isn’t it?)

By Khevin Barnes

Arizona is a fabulous destination if you’re looking for sunshine and incredible natural beauty. The sixth-largest state in the United States, Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon and attracts millions of tourists every year just for that, but there’s a lot more to Arizona than its geological wonders.

Unfortunately, the news in this story isn’t all good. In fact, it’s the very sunshine that adds to the beauty of our state that also threatens its citizens. Tucson, Arizona you see is one of the global leaders in skin cancer cases, second only to Sydney, Australia. But no matter where you live in our lovely state, skin cancer is still a concern. It’s the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer, affecting 1 in 5 Americans in their lifetimes.

So why did I have to go and spoil a tribute to beautiful Arizona with news of the “C” word you may ask? Beauty is only skin deep, and a little prevention, even if it makes your skin crawl, is always a good thing.

I’m one of those guys with notoriously “bad” skin. If you were to add up all the freckles that are spread out like so many wayward constellations on my ageing body, you would likely have an infinitesimally large number to deal with. Freckles of course are not dangerous but are in fact an inherited feature and although not considered sun damage, they do occur as a result of sun exposure. When UV rays hit your skin, freckles develop from an increase in dark pigments called melanin. Growing up in Newport Beach, I spent countless hours in the sand and surf and even lived in Hawaii for a year where the ultraviolet sunlight is perilously strong.

But it’s these cooler winter days here in Arizona that can fool us, dry heat or not. Despite outdoor temperatures, that big star in the sky is constantly bathing us in ultraviolet light. So let’s debunk some of those myths about sun and U.V. exposure.

Florida is known as “the sunshine state” but the truth is, with my apologies to all of my sun-seeking friends, Florida only ranks as #10 where annual sunshine is concerned. Arizona gets the most sun, followed by New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, and California. Depending on how you choose to look at it, Arizona comes out as the “big win state” or the “bad skin state”. But as far as dermatologists are concerned the most dermatologically dense city in America is Boston. Beantown has 46.9 skin specialists per 100,000 residents.

Go figure.

And finally, if you’ve never really thought much about your skin, which is the largest organ of the human body, here’s something that may help you appreciate that amazing fleshy wrapper that holds you together. Though you can’t see it happening, every minute of the day we lose about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells off the surface of our skin. That’s almost 9 pounds of cells every year. A good portion of the dust in your home is actually comprised of your own skin cells. I’m sure I’ll never think of housecleaning in quite the same way again. And that old rock song that laments “All we are is dust in the wind” takes on a whole new meaning for me these days.

Khevin Barnes spends a good deal of his time in the Arizona outdoors, hiking and playing Pickleball while wearing sunscreen of course. He spends far less time dusting the house.

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