According to a new report issued by Multnomah County Health Department, “Skin Cancer,” Oregon has one of the highest incidence rates in the U.S. of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, along with Washington, Idaho, Utah, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the two most common types of skin cancer, and they are highly curable. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more serious because it can be fatal, although if detected early it can also be highly curable. In 2004 Oregon had a rate of 26.1 cases of melanoma per 100,000 age-adjusted population compared to a national rate of 17.1 cases per 100,000 age-adjusted population. Multnomah County’s rate was 25.1 per 100,000.
The reasons for the higher rates in Oregon are unclear. Oregonians enjoy outdoor activities and spend their time outside during sunny weather. Higher usage of tanning beds by Oregonians, and exposure to the sun during childhood and on vacations to sunny climates could be contributing factors to the higher rates of melanoma. Fair-skinned men and women age 65 and older, and people with with atypical moles or more than 50 moles are at greater risk for developing melanoma.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of cases of melanoma among younger white women in the United States. The number of cases among young women, ages 15 to 39, increased from 9.4 per 100,000 population in 1980 to 13.9 per 100,000 in 2004.
According to Multnomah County Health Department Director Lillian Shirley, “Data suggests that most skin cancers can be prevented if children, adolescents, and adults are protected from UV rays. Ask your health care provider to check moles and any skin abnormalities at your next medical visit.”
Recommendations for sun protection include:
• Seeking shade, especially during the midday hours when UV rays are strongest
• Cover up exposed skin with protective clothing
• Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck
• Use sunscreen and reapply frequently
• Protect eyes with wrap-around sunglasses that provide 100% UVA and UVB ray protection