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Dermatologist Bernard Ackerman likes a tan.

Dermatologist Bernard Ackerman has many sun splotches -- but he isn't worried that they place him at higher risk for cancer.

Dermatologist Bernard Ackerman has many sun splotches -- but he isn't worried that they place him at higher risk for cancer. Read Article >

Photograph by: Lou Manna/Handout photo/Canwest News Service, Canwest News Service

Award-winning dermatologist Bernard Ackerman likes how he looks with a tan.

Ackerman says warnings issued again as recently as September by U. S. researchers that there is no such thing as a safe tan "are pure bunk."

He likes how he feels in his soul "when warmed by rays of the sun," and he believes the possibility of a few wrinkles, and even a squamous-cell carcinoma -- a skin cancer "which in the vast majority of instances poses no threat to the life of a patient" -- must be balanced against the "immeasurable" advantages provided by exposure to ultra violet radiation.

In the era of almost religious safe sun messages, Ackerman is like an atheist at a revival meeting. According to the man honoured by the American Academy of Dermatology in 2004, sunlight is not the cause of melanoma.

"Working on a tan" is like training muscles: "Both, if done in moderation and reasonably, serve a worthwhile purpose." Sunburns, including blistering ones, "have not been shown to have anything to do with the development of melanoma," Ackerman says.

...But Ackerman says the number of melanomas hasn't changed; rather, more diagnoses are being made because of heightened vigilance. Dr. Gregory Daniels is an expert in melanoma at the Moore Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego. He believes there probably is a link between sun exposure and melanoma. "The danger is we think we understand it."

"Why is it that melanoma went from something that happened to one in 5,000 people in the 1930s, to one in 50?" Daniels says. "What is that? What changed? Fluorescent lights? We're now staying indoors more. We just don't know. The problem is we don't know, but we think we do.

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