Arizona’s estimated skin cancer incidence rate is above the U.S. national average, according to Axios and the American Cancer Society (ACS). By the numbers, the Grand Canyon State’s annual melanoma diagnoses per 100,000 locals was 42.3 in 2022. In comparison, the U.S. national average is 29.9.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It can become life-threatening within six weeks and, if untreated, can spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, brain, and other body parts.
Here, your Buckeye dermatologists will discuss three must-know facts about melanoma. We will also reveal how Arizona’s population can prevent this deadly disease.
Surprising Facts About Melanoma
There’s more to this cancer than meets the eye.
1. Melanoma can develop in areas hidden in plain sight
Staying away from tanning beds and harmful sun exposure are two ways to prevent melanoma. However, about 30% of melanoma cases are unrelated to UV exposure. It can arise in the white portion of your eye, your tongue, genital region, soles, and other areas that barely make contact with UV radiation. Your genetics also play a role, as an estimated 10% of melanomas occur due to genetic mutations that pass from one family generation to the next.
Clinical researchers have not fully discovered the underlying causes of melanoma, meaning it can develop regardless of whether you stay away from UV rays and have no family history of skin cancer.
2. The majority of melanomas do not begin in a preexisting mole
Although melanoma can develop in an existing mole, as much as 70% occurs in normal skin. It is actually rare for a mole to turn into cancer. If we do the math, billions of people have moles, and melanoma affects merely 132,000 people worldwide each year. Fewer than one in every 10,000 moles will transform into melanoma.
Even though some melanomas are unrelated to UV exposure and most cases develop on normal skin, you still need to protect your face and body from the sun, including all areas with or without moles. Stay safe by using an SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen combined with sun-protective clothing.
- The Truth About SPF and Skin Cancer Prevention
- Causes of New Moles and When to See a Dermatologist in Phoenix, AZ
3. Melanoma can be colorless
While many melanomas appear as a dark brown or black sore, some have no color and appear as an isolated pink spot with an uneven texture, shape, border, or color distribution. The general rule of thumb is to visit a dermatologist near you for any skin changes.
Why Are Melanoma Rates Higher in Arizona?
Arizona, nicknamed “Valley of the Sun,” has exceptional levels of sunshine throughout the year. It has over 350 days of sunshine on average, far exceeding other states like Hawaii, Florida, and California. Its arid, desert climate creates ideal conditions for absorbing the sun’s rays, with low precipitation and humidity that allows for extensive solar penetration. This high-intensity ultraviolet radiation and extensive exposure to the sun’s rays contribute to Arizona’s higher rates of melanoma.
How to Prevent Melanoma in Arizona
Living in Arizona means taking extra precautions against the sun’s harmful UV rays to lower your melanoma risk. Some effective strategies for locals and visitors include:
1. Stay out of the sun during the peak UV hours
The sun is strongest from 10 o’clock in the morning until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Find shade under trees, umbrellas, or tall buildings. However, the safest option is to stay indoors. UV rays can penetrate glass and bounce off reflective surfaces, so even though you’re indoors or in your backyard where the sun may not be hitting you directly, keep your distance from windows, pools, grass, snow, and pavement.
2. Apply sunscreen daily, even if you’re not going outside
If you work outdoors, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, especially on exposed skin like your face, neck, arms, and legs. Reapply every two hours or after sweating or swimming. And, as mentioned, since UV rays can reach you indoors, apply sunblock every day, especially if you have large windows throughout your property.
3. Wear UV-protective clothing
Before heading outdoors, pair sunscreen with protective clothing like sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats, lightweight pants, and long-sleeved shirts to minimize UV exposure. UV-protective fabrics can block UVA and UVB rays alike. You can also use a sun umbrella, which provides 99% UV ray protection.
4. Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps
Studies have demonstrated a strong association between indoor tanning and melanoma. Some key statistics illustrate this connection:
- Tanning beds emit approximately 12 times more UVA light than sunlight.
- Using tanning beds before age 20 shows a 47% increase in melanoma risk compared to those who never used indoor tanning.
- Each additional tanning session further elevates melanoma risk by 1.8%.
Arizona’s sunny outdoors can be damaging enough. Do not maximize your skin cancer risk by using tanning beds, too.
5. Check your skin for new growths or unexplained changes
Every month, examine your skin for new moles, lesions, or changes in the size, shape, pigment, or feel of existing moles, spots, or birthmarks. See a top dermatologist in Buckeye, AZ, as soon as you notice anything suspicious.
Early detection is critical to surviving melanoma. Contact us for a quick skin check. Together, we can bring Arizona’s melanoma rates down.
A Word of Advice to All Arizona Residents and Tourists
Arizona’s 350+ days of sunlight and selection of exciting outdoor activities put you at higher risk of developing melanoma. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk by making simple changes to your lifestyle. Remember to limit your time in the sun during the peak UV hours of 10 AM to 4 PM. Slather on sunscreen with 30 SPF or more, especially if you’ll be outside for extended periods. Wear UV-protective sunglasses, hats, and loose, lightweight clothing that covers and protects your skin. Most of all, it’s time to stop using tanning beds. Melanoma is preventable if we all do our part to block those harmful UV rays.