Vol. 95 August 1, 2013 A Vacation In the Sun

hubOne answer to the perennial question, “If you live on Cape Cod, where do you go for vacation?” is to do what I am doing, hanging out at my sister’s family camp on Lake Champlain. It is a welcome opportunity to get away from Cape traffic, record-breaking heat and humidity, and a number of friends who are currently having various ditzels whacked off their deepening summer tans by vigilant dermatologists.

I am in a hammock next to the lake reading, much to my surprise, that Vermont, the land of a severely short summer, has one of the highest melanoma rates in the country. (1)  About 29 people per 100,000 in Vermont get diagnosed with melanoma as compared to the national average of 19 per 100,000. Bennington County has the HIGHEST rate of melanoma of any county in the nation, 179% above the national average!

Speculation as to the reasons include:

  1. Pale white skin is most susceptible, and 95.4% of Vermont residents are white.
  2. Those exposed to periods of sun that generate a deep tan are LESS susceptible than those who intermittently binge on the sun. “Worry most about the pallid accountant who takes a Caribbean vacation after slaving under fluorescent lights for 9 months” .
  3. Vermonters endure a long winter and then exuberantly celebrate the return of the sun; confirm this just by observing the Vermont college kids breaking out the short pants and tee shirts as soon as it hits 50 degrees. Melanomas in Vermont are most frequent on the trunk in men (no shirt) and on the legs in women (shorts).
  4. Bennington County residents may have a genetic mutation that makes them more susceptible as does the Mormon population in Utah which has a mutation in the p16 gene.

Thoroughly alarmed by these facts I rousted myself from the hammock to take a look at  melanoma death rates  (national range from 1.5 to 3.9 per 100,000) . Vermont  was in the higher third (3.1 per 100,000) but below Utah (3.3 per 100,000). Alaska, the Land of the Midnight Sun, had no rate reported due to insufficent data.

90% of those diagnosed in Vermont are cured by simple excision ( a melanoma less than 1 millimeter deep).

Reassured by the effectiveness of early diagnosis and simple excision, I went for a swim and took a nap.

Next week I will take my boat to Maine for a week. I wonder what surprisingly lethal threat will be written up in their Sunday supplement? … “Lobster Consumption Linked To Alzheimer’s?”

References:
1. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (WTF) in Seven Days, Burlington, Vt., Taylor Dobbs, July 31, 2013 ; wtf@sevendaysvt.com

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