Sunday, February 18, 2007

Melanoma / Volleyball / Osteoporosis

by Uncle Hans
Custom Smiley
Thanks for the melanoma warning. This picture shows me seriously endangering my life by ignoring that warning. This is a volleyball tournament in Belize I was in last year at this time. The quality of the play was quite uneven. My team from here in Spooner would easily have won the $500, and we are an average team here. The problem is that Belize is, like most of the world, soccer crazy. In that game one must never, never touch the ball with one's hands. So making the switch to an "all hand" game like volleyball is hard. These were all young and very good athletes, Manyon, San Pedro's semi-pro soccer (or "football" as they like to call it) team. They naturally play by "international" rules, which allow hitting the ball below the waist. We are just getting to where we allow that now. In this tournament I was set for spikes, reasonably well, off peoples knees and feet. Takes some getting used to.

Now, about the melanoma. Seems we have all been warned and are taking heed. We don't go out without our sunscreen and we protect our kids in the same way. We now see a new phenomenon: not enough exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is converted to it's active form (D3) by sunlight passing through our skin. D is part of a poorly understood mechanism of absorbing and utilizing calcium. It is very complex and involves parathyroid hormone, growth hormone and several other factors. The result of the system failing over time is the dreaded osteoporosis. This is a topic of much debate and advertising as we Boomers head toward the age of osteoporosis. It is possible that our fear of melanoma is causing us to be too careful about sunlight exposure and this may contribute to osteoporosis risk. Also, two weeks ago, a large University of California study was published showing that Vitamin D reduces cancer, specifically colon and lung. So, as usual,medical science is sending us mixed signals.

These mixed signals are perverted by the food and supplement manufacturers, to make wild and unsubstantiated claims that we believe, because they make sense. Taking Vitamin D and Calcium seems like it would help prevent osteoporosis. The problem is that there is very little science to prove it. Even the promising-sounding new medications for preventing osteoporosis have very few convincing studies in print. Those studies are all paid for by the drug companies, which makes them suspicious from the get-go. All the studies that show a correlation to that product and fracture reduction coincidentally have moderate exercise included in the regimen. I think a normal diet and lots of moderate exercise will prevent osteoporosis. Not just walking, or even running, but something that uses all your muscles. I think all the other claims are to sell products that have not been proven to work, without exercise. But there is no profit to be gained from teaching people to exercise, only pills and products make profit! So what sort of exercise can a Boomer do that is fun and safe and uses all your muscles? Why, volleyball, of course! Most towns have bar league sand indoor pick-up leagues. It's very cheap and provides camaraderie and competition we all need. And they play it in Belize, well, sort of...........

So what has this got to do with the poor girl that Rex has used to warn us about too much sun? I just think it raises the question that, if any of the men reading this blog were to be walking down the beach and we saw this poor suffering girl, who among us would not feel compelled to lie down and shade her for a while?............