If you were to take a guess at which states are most prone to skin cancer, you would suspect warm, sunny states like California, Texas, or Arizona. The year-round sunshine and UV exposure must put those states at a higher risk for skin cancer, right? When looking at the numbers on skin cancer rates around the country, we were shocked to find those assumptions were the opposite of what the data shows. States with the highest rates of new melanoma cases were actually northern, colder-weather states like Utah, Vermont and New Hampshire.
- Utah, Vermont and New Hampshire have the highest rates of skin cancer.
- Texas, Alaska and New Mexico have lowest rates of skin cancer.
- Men had 160% more cases of skin cancer than women.
- Nationwide, nearly 44,000 people died from skin cancer over a four-year period.
We looked at 2013-2017 CDC Cancer Statistics to find which states had the highest rates of new melanoma cases. Rate of new melanoma cases is a per capita figure of cases per 100,000 people. We also found the total number of new cases for each state and the number of melanoma deaths.
|State||New case rate||Total new cases||Melanoma-related deaths|
Sunburns a leading cause of melanoma
How is it that states with some of the lowest amounts of UV exposure have the highest rates of melanoma? The cause is likely due to the risk factors associated with skin cancer. One of the biggest risk factors in developing melanoma is sunburns. Severe sunburns damage the DNA of skin cells, causing new skin cells to grow out of control and become cancerous. The higher rate of melanoma cases in the northern, cold-weather states could very well be due to a higher rate of sunburns compared to southern, warmer states.
Residents of southern states protect themselves better than those in northern states
Skin care and sun protection behavioral habits of people in the northern states compared to southern states could be the difference in melanoma rates. Folks in warm, sunny states are living in an environment where the sun is out almost year-round. Thus, the year-round presence of the sun has created a cultural awareness among residents to protect themselves from the sun by applying an SPF sunscreen daily or wearing protective clothing and hats to guard against harmful UV rays.
Conversely, in colder states, people are not as attuned to protecting themselves from the sun. People in northern states are excited to shed their long sleeves and pants in favor of shorts and short sleeves when the seasons change. Not having sun protection top of mind as people do in warm states, northern folks are more prone to getting sunburnt when the seasons change. The shorter sun exposure without sun protection leaves northern people more susceptible to sunburn.
Men disproportionately affected by melanoma
Men have a rate of 29.5 new melanoma cases compared to 19.4 per 100,000 women. The likely causes of men being disproportionately affected go back to sunscreen usage and work environments. CDC’s Consumer HealthStyles survey found fewer than 15% of men reported sunscreen use compared to 30% of women. The lack of sunscreen usage leaves men susceptible to severe sunburns that are high-risk factors for melanoma.
Male work environments could also play a role in their high rates of melanoma. Outdoor jobs such as grounds maintenance, construction and similar labor professions are occupied by more than 90% men. Given men’s professions have them outside with more UV exposure leaves them at higher risk for sunburns and ultimately melanoma.
States where men and women are most affected by melanoma
|Rank||State||New case rate||Deaths|
|Rank||State||New case rate||Deaths|
We analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to find states with the highest rates of new cancers in the United States. Figures are based on the rate of new melanoma cases in each state. Rate of new melanoma cases is a per capita figure per 100,000 people from 2013 to 2017. States with the highest rankings are states with the highest numbers of new melanoma cases per 100,000 people over a four-year period.