Tuesday, December 18

Skin Cancer Higher in Florida, Obviously

Being fairly new to the area, I have realized that the sun in Florida is more intense than in Wisconsin where I'm from. It seems so intense that it's probably dangerous, and I've met two people here who have had to deal with skin cancer, so it's for real. Obviously, Florida must lead the nation in skin cancer. Or not. 

Here are the rates of skin cancer per 100,000 for a recent year:
1. Delaware—32.6
2. Vermont—32.3
3. New Hampshire—31.4
4. Wyoming—30.1
5. Oregon—29.6
6. Montana—29
7. Iowa—27.8
8. Washington—27.5
9. Utah—27.4
10. Maine—26.5
These rates are similar to other ones I found online from 2015, which had Utah way at the top with something called the age-adjusted rate (not sure if that makes a difference). 

Either way, Florida's not in the top 10. In one chart, it was right next to Wisconsin, somewhere in the middle. But why? It doesn't make a lot of sense that these northern, possibly cloudier states seem to top the Sunshine State for skin cancer. 

Actually, there may be several answers. One answer, at least for cloudier states, is that people don't realize that there's a sun out there. Oregon and Washington are supposed to be cloudy all the time, and Portland/Seattle both have 75% or more cloud cover for 60% of the year. Here, when it's sunny, you know it's there. If you don't wear sunscreen, you can expect a nasty reminder. So maybe we're a little better at covering up. 

Also, when the sun is at its worst, most of us here are trying to avoid it. Someone in Vermont might be fine with mowing the lawn in the middle of the day, while people here will do it early in the morning or as the sun goes down. The list above shows mostly Northern states in the top 10. Did you know that the total amount of sunlight over the course of a year is higher in the North? It's true. While we might have longer days in the winter, folks up North have longer summer days, and people up there tend to spend a lot of time outside during those long summer days, making up for the winters. 

The last factor that plays a role, as indicated in the article I read, is that white people get more skin cancer. Look at that top 10 again. States with a high percentage of white people. Fewer large, diverse cities. Fewer minority groups that don't tend to get melanoma as often. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wyoming, and Montana are all 90% white. Florida is 76%. Those states have 90,000 per 100,000, while we're at 76,000 per 100,000. If we look at it in comparing only the white people, then those states have more like 33 per 100,000 and Florida( at 24 per 100,000) is really more like 31.5 per 100,000. Basically the same rate. Still, these rates aren't constant when adjusted for race. Texas has about the same white population as Florida, yet it has half the skin cancer rate. 

Overall, skin cancer IS an issue in Florida. We have the 2nd most total cases in the country behind California, even if our RATE of getting it is lower than the top 10. Generally speaking, skin cancer affects people at a lower rate (22 per 100,000) than breast cancer (125 per 100,000) in our country, and there are four other cancers with higher rates than melanoma in between. Still, it just makes sense to let your wife spray your face with some sunscreen.