Sun Alert: Places with the Highest Rate of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is more prevalent in some places, and each site has a different reason. While UV and sun exposure are common elements, other factors also play a role.

Elevated Utah

Utah once again surpassed Arizona for the unenviable title of the state with the highest rate of skin cancer in the US. Several factors contribute to the vulnerability of Utahns to skin cancer, mainly elevation, ethnicity, and outdoor culture. Every rise in altitude comes with a corresponding increase in the concentration of ultraviolet (UV) light. UV concentrations can go up by around 7 percent for every 1,000 feet of elevation. At more than 4,000 feet above sea level, Provo-Orem is exposed to 28 percent more UV. Park City is exposed to even higher concentrations of UV, with an additional 50 percent. Fortunately, Park City residents tend to cover up because of the cold, leaving very little skin exposed to the sun. The majority of Utahns (85 percent) are also white, making them even more vulnerable to the sun. Finally, the outdoor culture that keeps Utahns fit also makes them susceptible to UV. The state has several treatment centers devoted to skin cancers and melanomas, but prevention is always better than the cure.

Australia and the Equator

The land down under has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Being close to the equator puts Australia in a direct line to the sun. Most non-native Australians are white, and the low levels of melanin in fair skin leave it less protected from UV. Australians have also adapted to the hot climate by wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts, exposing more of their skin to the sun. The ozone layer above the equator is even thinner than in other parts of the globe, leading to more UV exposure in places like Argentina, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.

Beach-Loving Norway

Reading and sunbathing at the beach

Norway is neither elevated nor situated near the equator. However, Norwegians love tanning on the beach and in their homes. Tanning is a sign of UV damage. Skin will not drastically change color unless UV has already penetrated and caused significant damage. Tanning booths also make use UV, so they’re not safer than tanning on the beach. It also doesn’t help that most Scandinavians have very fair skin, making them more susceptible to UV damage.

Sun Safety

Exposure to the sun always come with harmful UV. However, you can minimize your sun exposure or take steps to protect yourself from harmful UV radiation. Wear protective clothing or clothes that don’t expose a lot of skin. Hats are very effective in protecting your face and neck, which are also some of the more vulnerable parts of your body to UV. Use sunscreen as often as needed and reapply it every couple of hours so that it remains effective.

Overall, remember that several factors can increase your vulnerability to UV and increase your risk of developing skin cancers. However, if you limit your sun exposure, these factors won’t even come into play.

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