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Most of us are not biologically suited to survive a summer in central or southern Arizona without major technological assistance. We adapt to the heat by turning our thermostats to “winter,” and we manage our lack of surface water by damming and diverting water from the north, pumping groundwater, and drinking bottled water from Fiji. We make frozen cocktails, we adapt.

What does this have to do with skin cancer?

While most of us are enthusiastic about innovating to adapt to living with extreme heat and drought, we shrug our sunburned shoulders about adapting to Arizona’s intense UV radiation. Why do we embrace modern tools to combat the challenges of heat and limited water resources, but lack enthusiasm when it comes to protecting ourselves from the harmful effects of the sun? Well, some people haven’t discovered sunscreen products they enjoy wearing. Others don’t have access to enough shade, and for some, long-sleeved protective clothing doesn’t connote “summer.” In addition, our risk/reward ratio favors protecting ourselves from short-term negative effects over long-term ones: intense heat and dehydration cause short-term, acute negative effects that can be fatal, while the negative effects of overexposure to the sun can take years to develop into disease.

Our ability to adapt to extreme conditions is impressive, and we mustn’t overlook the importance of protecting ourselves from the harmful effects of UV radiation by using sunscreen, seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing to prevent skin cancer. By embracing these adaptations, we can thrive in Arizona’s challenging environment while supporting our long-term health and well-being.