Idaho’s Skin Cancer Risk is Scary-High
This weekend is going to be a scorcher and it's going to feel like the sun is burning a hole right through us, and maybe it is. You won't believe how high Idaho ranks when it comes to skin cancer risk.
When I think of states where the sun's rays are probably the most painful, I think of states like Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, Alabama, and all of the southern states where people tend to sweat in the movies. They're closer to the equator down south, and it makes sense that the sun's rays would be more intense there. But it turns out, Idaho's skin cancer risk is higher than some of those states, and it's not exactly clear why.
The CDC says people who live in states like Idaho that aren't known for "abundant sunshine are actually at higher risk for developing skin cancer." Idaho is in a group of states that have the highest skin cancer risk in America, along with Utah, Delaware, Vermont, and Minnesota. It's hard to believe, but we have a higher risk for melanoma than people do in Florida, California, or Texas, according to Cancercenter.com and the CDC.
In Idaho, sunburns tend to hit men and women between the ages of 18 and 34 the most. I remember getting a nasty blistering sunburn at age 24 after spending an entire afternoon floating on a tube on a lake with my back to the sun, and next to childbirth and stepping on a Lego, it was the worst pain ever. Oh, it was awful. And now I get yearly full-body checks at the dermatologist's office just to make sure I didn't ruin my life, and that everything is okay. So far so good.
It's not always the sun's fault. From what I've read, much of Idaho's skin cancer risk comes from tanning beds, which offer plenty of exposure to ultraviolet radiation too. Idahopublichealth.com says using indoor tanning beds before age 35 makes us 75% more likely to develop skin cancer later on.
Skin cancer risk factors include exposure to UV rays, family history, and a weakened immune system, according to the CDC. Fair-skinned people like me come with a built-in higher risk, and it's something I worry about every time I'm in the sun. A dermatologist told me one time that I should even wear sunscreen if I'm sitting near a window at the office. Most makeup has at least a little bit of sunscreen in it, so I'm good, right? Yikes. Apparently, there are a lot of us in Idaho in this risk category.
The advice for reducing skin cancer risk includes a lot of obvious stuff, like wearing sunscreen, wearing bucket hats and clothing that will block the rays, and staying in the shade. Idaho health experts also say, "don't burn.'' Whoops! How about we just add "again" to that last one.