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New Mexico has among the lowest rates for skin cancer

New Mexico, along with many southern U.S. states, has one of the lowest rates of skin cancer in the country, with 15.7 cases per 100,000 people, ranking at No. 48.

QuoteWizard compiled CDC data on Melanoma cases across the country and found:

• In hotter, southern states, people are hyper-aware of the need to protect themselves from the sun, with the lowest average rate of 16.95 cases, compared to the top 10 northern states at 31.65.

• Behaviors in sun exposure are likely the biggest factor, with southern states attuned to applying sunscreen and wearing suitable clothing.

• Men have a disproportionate rate of cases, at 28.4, compared to women at 17.7.

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 degrees compared to 52.6 degrees for the bottom 10 states.

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.

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 pare 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.