- Cooler, northern states have the highest rate of new melanoma cases.
- Warmer, southern state actually have lower rates of new melanoma cases.
- Behaviors in sun exposure likely biggest factor in new melanoma cases.
- Males are disproportionately affected by new melanoma cases compared to women
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 rate of new melanoma cases were actually northern, colder weather states like Utah, Vermont, and Minnesota.
We looked at 2016 CDC Cancer Statistics to find which states had the highest rate of new melanoma cases. Rate of new melanoma cases is a per capita figure of cases per 100,000 people. Rankings below are from 1 (highest rate) to 50 (lowest rate). We included states average annual temperature for perspective on cold and warm states. Top 10 states average temperature is 46.9 °F compared to 52.6 °F of the bottom 10 states.
|Skin Cancer Rank||State||Rate of New Melanoma||Avg °F|
Sunburns a leading cause of melanoma
How is it that states with some of the lowest amount 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. The year round presence of the sun has people hyper aware of protection from the sun. That’s applying an SPF sunscreen daily or wearing protective clothing and hats to guard against harmful UV rays. It’s a cultural awareness of folks living in warmer states to have sun protection top of mind.
Conversely, in colder states people are not as attuned to protecting themselves from the sun. Being in long sleeves and pants most of the year, people in northern states are excited to shed down into 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 a sunburn 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 28.4 new melanoma cases, compared to 17.7 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 the 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.
Men in northern states tend to have the highest health risk when it comes to melanoma. Given it's propensity in men and the northern regions, people in those specific groups need to develop an awareness for protecting themselves from the sun. The Mayo Clinic recommends wearing broad spectrum SPF sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and wearing protective clothing such as long covering shirts and pants with a broad brimmed hat and sun glasses.
States where men and women are most affected by melanoma
|Skin Cancer Rank||State||Rate of New Melanoma|
|Skin Cancer Rank||State||Rate of New Melanoma|
We analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to find states with the highest rate of new cancers in the United States. Figures are based on rate of new melanoma cases in each state. Rate of new melanoma cases are a per capita figure per 100,000 people. States with the highest ranking are states with the highest number of new melanoma cases per 100,000 people.