Though it may not seem like a major concern considering how rainy it’s been this spring, May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a reminder to Rhode Islanders to protect themselves against sun damage. A new report suggests some states aren’t nearly as concerned about sun damage as they should be, given their rates of melanoma. Fortunately, Rhode Island appears does not appear to be one of them.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the country. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the two most common types, though both are highly curable. Melanoma is the third most prevalent, but also the most deadly, killing 9,000 Americans in 2015 alone, the most recent year data was available.
Skin cancer is caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet rays, whether it’s from sunlight or tanning beds. These rays penetrate and alter skin cells.
According to the folks at Advanced Dermatology in Illinois, Rhode Island residents are “appropriately concerned” about skin cancer. The skin doctors analyzed Google trends data and local skin cancer rates from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rank every state based on whether they’re appropriately concerned, with No. 1 representing extremely concerned. Rhode Island ranked number 15.
In Rhode Island, there were 1,451 new cases of skin melanomas between 2011 and 2015 and 166 people died from the cancer.
Here’s the likelihood of getting cancer in each of Rhode Island’s five counties. The results include rate, case count and population.
- Washington County:
- Rate: 35.5 per 100,000 people
- Case count: 284
- Population: 631,796
- Newport County:
- Rate: 31.6 per 100,000 people
- Case count: 181
- Population: 413,788
- Bristol County:
- Rate: 31.3 per 100,000 people
- Case count: 95
- Population: 246,353
- Kent County:
- Rate: 26.3 per 100,000 people
- Case count: 271
- Population: 825,401
- Providence County:
- Rate: 17.5 per 100,000 people
- Case count: 271
- Population: 3,151,134
Utah saw the highest rate of skin cancer of any state at 38.3 new cases per 100,000 people. Vermont, Delaware, Minnesota and New Hampshire rounded out the top five. Conversely, Washington, D.C. saw the lowest rate with a rate of 9 new cases per 100,000 people, followed by Texas, Alaska, Nevada and New Mexico.
While some people may think they look good with a tan, it doesn’t indicate good health. In fact, it means quite the opposite.
“A tan is your skin’s response to injury, because skin cells signal that they have been hurt by UV rays by producing more pigment,” the CDC wrote on its website. “Any change in skin color after UV exposure (whether it is a tan or a burn) is a sign of injury, not health.”
Over time, too much exposure to UV rays can cause skin cancers and even cataracts and cancers of the eye.
“Every time you tan, you increase your risk of getting skin cancer,” the CDC said.
To reduce the risk of skin cancer, health officials recommend staying in the shade, covering arms and legs, wearing a hat and sunglasses and wearing sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Also avoid indoor tanning altogether.