North Dakota is probably not the first state you think of when it comes to warmth and sun. Florida, “The Sunshine State,” seems a likely candidate, but North Dakota?
Why then, are rates of melanoma skin cancer significantly higher in North Dakota than in Florida?
Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer, and also the deadliest. Melanoma develops deep in the skin and can quickly spread to the vital organs. It accounts for less than one percent of all skin cancer cases but is responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
This is no small problem and not one that should be overlooked.
In Florida, 20.6 out of every 100,000 people develop melanoma skin cancer.
In North Dakota, 26 out of every 100,000 people develop melanoma skin cancer.
Rates in North Dakota have gone up from 15.7 to 26 out of every 100,000 people from only 2006 to 2018.
How could melanoma possibly be more prevalent in North Dakota than The Sunshine State? Here’s how:
North Dakota is known for its cold temperatures, not their sun. The time of year when the sun is shining warmly small, the window for soaking it up is narrow. North Dakotans tend to spend large amounts of time per day in the sun during the few short sunny months.
This means that North Dakotans are exposing their skin to direct sunlight, or even indirect sunlight, during the most intense rays of the year, and for longer periods of time.
In Florida, the sun shines year round. Floridians know this and spend small amounts of time outside all throughout the year, limiting their prolonged exposure to the harmful rays, especially during the hot, sticky months of summer when the sun’s power is at its peak.
North Dakotans also do not take as many regular precautions to protect their skin from the harmful UV rays. North Dakotans are told to put sunscreen on when they spend time in the rays, but rarely take the time to apply sunscreen year round, even when the clouds are out.
Even on a cloudy day, 80% of harmful UV rays can make their way to your skin and cause irreversible damage.
Floridians are more likely to adapt daily sun precautions, as it is almost always present. They regularly apply sunscreen, wear hats, and protect their skin with clothing or other methods every day of the year.
The population of each state also plays a role in the different rates of melanoma. Melanoma is most common in non-Hispanic whites. 9 out of 10 cases of melanoma are found in this demographic.
North Dakota’s population is 90% white, while Florida’s is 78%. These numbers correlate to the increased number of melanoma cases in North Dakota when compared to Florida. North Dakota’s population is simply more likely, genetically and environmentally, to develop melanoma.
1) Sunscreen: Always (even on cloudy or cool days) wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
2) Cover Up: When possible, cover your face and body with hats, long sleeve shirts, or pants.
3) Get Checked: Get a skin screening by a dermatologist of family doctor at least once a year. If you or a family
member have a history of skin cancer, a screening every 6 months is advised.
Skin Cancer is real. Skin Cancer is terrifying. Skin Cancer is avoidable.
Awareness and early detection is key.