Skin doctor: You pay for fun in the sun |

Skin doctor: You pay for fun in the sun

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

One in three Australians get skin cancer.

The higher rate of cancer is attributed to a sunny climate mixing with the fair skin of Aussies. And there is less ozone at the poles of the earth to provide protection from ultraviolet light produced by the sun.

“That’s an epidemic,” said Dr. Ron Gemberling, of the Australian skin cancer rate. Gemberling spoke Monday night as part of a Wellness Lecture sponsored by the Barton Health Resource Center.

He stressed to the handful of people in attendance that increased danger from the sun exists at Lake Tahoe because it sits at 6,200 feet and is 24 percent stronger than it is at sea level.

“People don’t start taking skin cancer seriously until they see what it can do,” Gemberling said. “You pay for fun in the sun.”

Gemberling, his own face tan from skin peels, practices what he preaches. When outside for extended periods, he wears shades, a large-brimmed hat and long sleeves. He warned to be most careful from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when sun rays can do the most damage to human skin.

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At Tahoe, Gemberling said most of the patients he works with suffer from skin cancer of the nose, cheeks and ears. The cancers form in the top 32nd of an inch in human skin.

The doctor also warned that tanning beds can be harmful despite the fact that the ultraviolet light they deliver is safer than direct sunlight. Manufactured radiation can “compound” any sun damage that already exists, Gemberling said.

Most sun damage happens before someone turns 18. Gemberling said 80 percent of a lifetime’s worth of sun damage occurs before that age.

Gemberling offered these other facts related to skin cancer:

n Ultraviolet radiation increases 4 percent every 1,000 feet of elevation.

n In the 1960s, one in 600 people got skin cancer. In 2000, that rate increased to one in 75 people.

n 95 percent of skin cancers are non-melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It kills 20 percent of the people who contract the disease.

Forrest Armstrong, 23, of South Lake Tahoe, attended Gemberling’s presentation. He said the doctor’s warnings will have an impact on his lifestyle in the sun.

“I’m definitely going to be using a lot more protection,” said Armstrong, who in the past only used 15 SPF (Sun Protection Factor) when in the sun.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at