Last weekend, my family went camping. It was our first exposure this year to our medium yellow star and as always, we forgot about “carefully” applying sunscreen on our virgin skin. By the end of the day, my daughter’s fair skin looked like preschoolers finger painted sunscreen. She sported some lovely patterns of white and “sizzle”. Seeing her miserable and knowing that summer officially started yesterday, it got me thinking about skin cancer and whether it was still on the rise. I mean, gone are the days of yore when we used to bake under tanning beds and fry in baby oil. Now you can buy SPF 100 and spray on tans.
There are 3 major types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – while this one is the most common, it’s also the least aggressive of the bunch.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – this one grows slowly but can spread to tissues, bones and lymph nodes. Once there, makes it harder to treat.
- Melanoma – this one is bad news bears and causes the most deaths.
So let’s look at some data. NIH (National Institute of Health) has a great site for showing cancer profiles by state. Looks like we can check the incidence rates for melanoma for each state from 2011 – 2015.
What I find interesting is that the Pacific Northwest looks a little sunburned on this map (kind of fitting given our seared skin this past weekend). Do we just forget to apply sunscreen because we mostly live under cloud cover and rain? Hmm…
This doesn’t really answer the question about whether melanoma is on the rise. But it does show us those areas where some sun management is definitely needed. The NIH site had a detailed table of values where each state was listed as falling, stable, or rising, summarized for that time period. But I wanted to visually see the trend over time.
So I hopped on over to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and found some data from 1999 – 2015 that showed the trend is unfortunately going up overall for new melanoma cases reported.
My hope is that religious application of sunscreen and hanging out in the shade will start to see this trend dip in the future.
I was also curious to see how the death rates for skin cancer was trending over time.
So this one is encouraging. We are seeing a downward trend in the rate of deaths caused by melanoma. That means some of us are catching it early and getting appropriate treatment. Woohoo!
And now for the public service announcement – please get those weird moles checked by a dermatologist early and often so we can continue this downward trend. And use that sunscreen! I will be using SPF 100 and finding shade this summer. Will you?