Letters from the October 15, 2005, issue of Science News

Sun, sky, or slather?

“Sun Struck: Data suggest skin cancer epidemic looms” (SN: 8/13/05, p. 99) gives the impression that the increase in skin cancer among young people is caused by tanning in the sun. Environmental factors such as ozone depletion should have at least been referenced in the article.

Cathy Hodge McCoid
Sacramento, Calif.

In your article, the conclusion that young people are getting more skin cancers because “people are tanning more” does not seem to be supported by the research as reported. The research seemed to be based on the number of cancers, not the amount of tanning. Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, my friends and I spent all day everyday in the California sun without benefit of sunscreen. I question the effects of the chemicals in the suntan lotions slathered on kids today every time they go outside (which, with the advent of television and computer games, is much less frequently).

Amy Emerson
Elko, Nev.

Grab a plate

The plates on Stegosaurus and the fleshy, domed skulls on pachycephalosaurs could certainly have been for recognition, but not the kind of recognition cited in the article comparing it to teen fashion (“Just for Frills?” SN: 8/13/05, p. 103). Isn’t flashy recognition often a sign that says, “Don’t eat me because I am poisonous”? There may have been enough noxious secretions in those dinosaur decorations for a creature even as dumb as a tyrannosaurus to learn from one bite never to do it again.

Robert H. Keiter
Johnson City, Tenn.

Could the dinosaurs’ plates be for camouflage? They might help them to blend into flora or a rocky landscape.

Lisa A. McLoughlin
Northfield, Mass.

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