Since 1982, rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have more than doubled from 11.2 cases per 100,000 people. That may not seem like a lot unless you happen to be one of the those odds-beating people diagnosed. It is estimated that 73,000 people will be so diagnosed in the United States in 2015 with a projected 113,000 cases in 2030. I’ve seen two of these diagnoses in my own family, so the matter is high in my attention.
Treating melanoma costs something like $457 million in 2011. As health care costs go, that’s not too extreme, weighing in around $6,000 per case. Most cases will involve a chunk of skins being taken out in a relatively simple outpatient surgery. An unlucky 9,000 per year, however, die from this form of cancer.
So how do we save that $457 million? Or at least save ourselves from becoming one of those statistics? Not only is it reasonably simple to shift the odds in our favor but the remedies have other benefits as well.
- Wear sunscreen. By wearing sunscreen you’ll not only reduce your risk but you’ll also avoid painful sunburns.
- Cover up with hats and clothes. You can avoid slathering sunscreen on yourself by wearing long sleeves and brimmed hats.
- Stay out of the sun. By avoiding the heat of the day, you not only make the most of the shade but give yourself a good excuse not to mow the grass.
That’s it. Melanoma–and other skin cancers–are not mysterious afflictions, like pancreatic cancer, that seem to pop up for no real reason. By far the biggest risk factor is exposure to the sun (or other sources of UV radiation like tanning beds). Avoid the sun and you’ll likely stay out of those statistics.
Even a diagnosis of melanoma shouldn’t rob someone of hope. With Job, that person can claim, “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26). But better yet, avoid the destruction.
Ecclesiastes tells us that there’s nothing new under the sun. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Douglas Brash of Yale Medical School tells us to wear our sunscreen. What might seem new, however, comes once you have gotten out from under the sun. Brash’s study discovered that the harmful effects of solar radiation keeps on doing their damage for more than three hours after you get back under cover.
What this boils down to is that exposure to the sun doesn’t just keep our skin cooking for three hours after we go inside but also increases the possibilities of us joining the 2 million Americans who are diagnosed with skin cancer annually.
To preserve the skin that God stuffed into at your birth, do the sensible things: wear a hat, put on sunscreen, minimize your exposure to the heat of the day. That’s not news. Like I said, there’s nothing new under the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.–Psalm 19:5-6
Given its role as the primary source of light and warmth on earth–before electric bulbs and furnaces that is–the sun took an understandable place as an object of worship among primitive people. Today, we know better. We don’t deify the sun. We save that sort of treatment for mediocre celebrities or old growth forests. Perhaps, then, we’ve not advanced quite so far as we like to believe.
The natural tendency, it seems, is for humans to worship elements of the creation. When David remarks in these verses on the majesty, the power, and the indispensable nature of the sun, he might be accused of just such worship. However, we need to recall that he began this passage by noting that God had erected a tent for the majestic sun, the powerful sun, the indispensable sun. It is as if he were asking, “Do you think the sun is amazing? Well, I do too! Now let me tell you who hung the sun up there in the sky.”
The natural world is remarkable. From sprawling trees to tiny frogs, I can see wonders all around without leaving my own property. Today, as spring gets started in Missouri, the greening of the grass and the buds on trees declare God’s glory just as surely as the stars in the sky.
Our folly comes when we find ourselves amazed by the grass, leaves, and flowers, the sun, moon, or stars, but we fail to look beyond these to the Creator God who made them all possible.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. –Psalm 19:4c
“Oh, those silly, superstitious people. Do they honestly believe that there’s a tent up there in the sky or that the sun needs a tent to live in? How absurd.” While this quotation does not record the actual words of anyone I’ve ever heard, it does capture the basic attitude of some of our current atheist set. These self-styled “free thinkers” and “sceptics” have latched onto a very literal view of life. If their yardstick cannot measure it, then it does not exist.
In the early going of Hamlet, the prince points out his friend’s excessively skeptical nature. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” So it is with the Psalmist and the sun. Did David truly desire to personify the sun, thinking that it lived in an enormous tent that formed the canopy of the heavens. “The canopy! There’s another one. How ignorant are these Bible readers?” I rather think David more sophisticated that that. He is, after all, writing poetry. Inspired poetry, yes, but poetry nonetheless.
Part of what the heavens speak forth throughout these verses of Psalm 19 is the greatness of God in contrast with the smallness of Man. The God who placed each of the stars and planets in its place, who created a dwelling place for something as essential and powerful as the sun, can do anything He desires. By contrast, can Man reach those stars that God cast around the sky so effortlessly? Can Man stop the progress of the sun in the sky? “Foolish people! They take the idea of Joshua stopping the sun in the sky literally!”
When I listen to the message of the heavens, I learn two very important lessons. There is a God, and I am not Him. When we limit the world we will accept to the world we can fully explain and comprehend, we dwell in a far smaller tent than the metaphorical one that David suggests for the sun.