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Summer is dangerous, new studies 'prove'

July 31, 2009 |  6:01 am


A growing body of evidence from around the world suggests that summer is unhealthful, if not downright dangerous. Researchers in an array of medical fields have found previously unsuspected health risks in the famously school-free, sun-worshiping time between spring and fall. And while the researchers themselves are not making the connection between their findings and the inherent dangers of this seemingly benign season, the conclusion by today's popular standards is obvious. Consider:

One team announced this week that the season appears to be connected to autoimmune diseases in women. Another team recently linked summer to low amniotic fluid levels in women. And a third contended that bad summer habits are being picked up by Asian Americans from Westerners.

* In a study published in the August issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, researchers studied the autoantibodies of 380 people diagnosed with the autoimmune conditions dermatomyositis or polymyositis. They also assessed the UV intensity in the area where the participants lived when they developed the condition. (Both conditions are forms of myositis, an inflammation of the muscles used to control your body. Dermatomyositis however, includes a skin rash and can be aggravated by sun exposure. Here's more on the conditionsfrom Medline Plus.) 

Those researchers, in work sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (which is on the record suggesting a connection between skin cancer and sun exposure) found a link -- in women -- between the intensity of UV radiation and the proportion of patients with dermatomyositis.

The abstract and the news release.

* In a study published in the July issue of Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, researchers at Soroka University Medical Center in Israel assessed whether summer was a risk factor for low amniotic fluid in pregnant women, comparing the frequency of the condition during the summer with the frequency during other parts of the year. (A low level of amniotic fluid is known as oligohydramnios. Here's the March of Dimes explanation.)

The researchers' conclusion: "Oligohydramnios is significantly more common during the summer months versus the rest of the year. Moreover, the summer season is an independent risk factor for oligohydramnios." Dehydration, they said, is the key.
Here's the abstract and the news release.

* And finally, in a study published in May in the Archives of Dermatology, researchers at Stanford University surveyed Asian Americans in Northern California on their attitudes toward sun exposure, such as whether or not a tan is attractive and their attitudes toward sunscreen use.

They concluded: "Our data suggest that adoption of Western culture may be associated with attitudes and behaviors promoting sun exposure among Asian Americans. This group should be targeted by dermatologists for increased education regarding sun protection, solar damage, and skin cancer prevention and detection." 

The abstract and the Stanford news service version.

So there we have it -- three separate, unrelated studies that, together, because they are at least tangentially related, must be a trend. The scientists involved say more research is needed, but really, why bother? Clearly, summer is dangerous. 

It should probably be banned. 

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Associated Press