We’re all going to die. Whether it’s terrorism, global warming or just old age, it’s sadly going to happen. When comedian Sacha Baron Cohen – of “Borat” fame – had his character Ali G ask the United States Surgeon General the odds on him dying, the results came back at a startling 100 percent. Yes, it’s a sobering thought. But it’s also one I’d like to think we’ve all come to grips with by this point in our lives. In case anyone hasn’t though, we, as a society, are lucky enough to be bombarded with sketchy scientific research and “60 Minutes” specials informing us of new, exciting threats to our lives – most of which always involve cancer. It seems like every day I read the news, there’s a new report out on something that causes cancer. Drink coffee? Get cancer. Freeze your water bottles? Get cancer. Keep your laptop on your lap? Yes, a novel thought, I know. Well, say goodbye to your favorite plaything. And no, I’m not talking about the laptop.
The media is always concerned with grabbing headlines, which could explain why the topic of death is so popular. Still, the frequency with which these new reports on our health come to light is just plain ridiculous. Half of the time, one report contradicts the next one. I don’t know how many times I’ve woken up to a news alert telling me that product X causes cancer, only to read a week later that product X actually helps build antibodies or libido. Part of the reason behind this inconsistency in data has to do with where the “research” stems from. Remember, it’s important not to trust everything you hear in the media. That is, unless I’m writing it. If a study funded by Johnson & Johnson reports that using mouthwash is as effective against plaque as flossing, you should probably be skeptical. It just so happens that McNeil-PPC, Inc. owns Listerine, and Johnson & Johnson owns McNeil-PPC.
Similarly, when word spread that the Yellow No. 5 food dye in Mountain Dew kills sperm counts and causes penises to shrivel, it was hard not to feel some rival soda company was behind the rumor. Of course, it’s a lot easier to believe something you read in the newspaper than the things you hear in your schoolyard, but let’s not kid ourselves. Scientific research should always be taken with a grain of salt. For one thing, scientists aren’t all jolly men of virtue who spend day and night wearing their white lab coats, working hard to save the world. The scientists studying HIV couldn’t stop fighting over who would get their name in that biology text book you fell asleep reading in 9th grade. By the time they got word out to the public about AIDS, thousands had already died from the disease.
All this brings to me to a Yahoo News article claiming sun block does nothing to prevent melanoma, the worst form of skin cancer. To read that about sun block, the wonders of which we have all grown up having instilled in our minds by our parents, lifeguards and swim instructors alike, was a shattering experience. According to the article, the real solution to preventing skin cancer is to simply never expose yourself to the sun. Genius, I know. It reminded me of those people who argue that the only solution to safe sex is abstinence. Apparently, if you suntan in the shade wearing all denim, you should be safe. And don’t let the heat bother you: The brilliant minds behind this study don’t even attempt to take that into consideration, nor do they mention that most people don’t enjoy going to the beach dressed as a cowboy.
In summary, we’re probably all going to get cancer at some point, so we might as well enjoy ourselves until then. If your laptop feels comfortably warm on your lap, then leave it there. And if you don’t want to stay in the shade all day long, then please don’t. You’ll probably scare someone. I’m not going to let some measly UV ray get in the way of my bronzing and nor should you. I will, however, stop using Mountain Dew as a contraceptive.