Go to College, Get a Tan, Get Melanoma (For the Lucky Ones: You Can Look Like 50 at Age 30)

A tarot card, showing "Death".

In the university town where I live, several of the apartment complexes, where many of the students rent, provide free access to tanning beds. Wow . . . it takes a long while for the RISK/benefits of tanning to reach students. In the Jan 14, 2014 post, Guest Blogger Liza Engstrom discussed exercise clubs in our community providing tanning as an extra membership benefit .


Now, a University of North Carolina junior, Alaina Zeitany, who is majoring in nutrition, has submitted a petition to the Chapel Hill, NC town council to “prohibit free unregulated tanning bed use.” The town staff will begin due process on the issue.


The Orange County health director, Colleen Bridger, submitted a very strong letter to the town, opposing free tanning bed use in apartments and urging the town to “take whatever action you can to immediately stop this harmful process.”


All parts of a town should be working to bring good health to a community. Kudos to the establishment and students on working together on this issue.


Your blogger has a modest suggestion: Turn tanning into an educational experience. Develop a deck of Tarot cards that the tanner must view before entering the booth.

  • Card 1 – 7,600 new melanomas a year. Melanoma can kill.
  • Card 2 – 10,000 deaths from melanoma every year.
  • Card 3 – Ultraviolet light is the most important risk factor for melanoma.
  • Card 4 – Those with fair skin and red or blond hair are at higher risk for melanoma.
  • Card 5 – There are genetic risk factors for melanoma.


See the Wednesday Jan 27, 2015 Chapel Hill News for full reporting on this issue.





Too Much Fat, Too Little Fat

Everyone wants to lose weight at the beginning of the year, and fat’s role in overall metabolism is a popular topic in the scientific and popular press. I see numerous computer popups advertising how to decrease my girth. I never click.

Now, Science and Arthritis and Rheumatology report intriguing physiological and pathological roles of fat, increasing our respect for and interest in the adipocyte.

Bleomycin injections have been used for many years to model systemic sclerosis. Recent findings show that the adipocytes in the mouse dermis are decreased after bleomycin injections and that this is associated with increased myofibroblasts that retain adipocyte markers (Marangoni et al, 2014). Therefore, thinking about human systemic sclerosis one now should consider signaling pathways that may affect adipocytes and trigger transdifferentiation . . . An important finding for stimulating New Year’s thinking. At first glance, this could be fat cells doing harm to the host.

Dermal adipocytes in the mouse can help the host (a mouse) during cutaneous infection with Staphylococcus aureus (Zhang et al, 2015). The adipocytes increase during cutaneous infection, and, more importantly, produce cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide. If adipose proliferation is prevented in the transgenic model, the antimicrobial peptide is impaired.

These two studies will no doubt increase interest in adipocytes and their roles in infections and inflammation.

The differences between mouse and human skin adipocytes have been recently summarized (Driskell et al, 2014).



Driskell RR, Jahoda CAB, Chuong CM (2014) Defining dermal adipose tissue. Exp Derm 23:629-31


Marangoni RG, Korman B, Wei J, et al (2014) Myofibroblasts in cutaneous fibrosis originate from adiponectin-positive intradermal progenitors. Arthritis Rheumatol. doi: 10.1002/art.38990. [Epub ahead of print]


Zhang LJ, Guerrero-Juarez CF, Hata T, et al (2015) Innate immunity. Dermal adipocytes protect against invasive Staphylococcus aureus skin infection. Science 347:67-71