Melanoma (Skin Cancer)

America’s Highest UV Cities: Melanoma (Skin Cancer) Is On The Rise In US

Saving your skin from the sun is one of the chief concerns of those who aspire for good health. Taking skin for granted is so easy. All you need is a few graphics editors to wipe out those blemishes for good. But aesthetics or health-wise, sun damage can have serious consequences for you. Proper care and awareness are necessary to save yourself from skin disorders and serious, chronic medical conditions such as skin cancer.

In the United States, skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, more common than breast, lung, colon and prostate cancer. As per the report of the American Cancer Society, in 2016, more than 5 million cases of skin cancer are detected each year. This includes a staggering 76 thousand cases of invasive melanoma. This is the kind that spreads to other body parts as well. This can be avoided if there is awareness about the use of tanning products, stress, pollution, tobacco and of course, sun damage.

America’s Highest UV Cities: Skin Cancer Rising

Research by the National Weather Service has found the top 3 cities for highest UV radiation are San Juan, Miami, and New Orleans. But the other cities are not far behind.

What are UV Rays?

Exposure to ultraviolet or UV radiation is a critical risk factor for different types of skin cancers. Sun damage is the main source of this. Sunlight contains UV rays (as do tanning beds and lamps). Those who get plenty of UV exposure from such sources can suffer skin cancer more so.

Though these rays constitute a small portion of the sun’s rays, they are the main reason for the skin’s sun damage. UV rays damage the skin cell DNA. Skin cancers develop when the damage affects the DNA of genes controlling skin cell growth.

Three main types of UV rays are there:

UVA: These rays cause skin cells to age and damage their DNA. These are associated with long-term damage to the skin such as wrinkles. They also play an important role in skin cancers. Tanning beds emit large UVA addition leading to rising levels of skin care.

UVB: These rays have more energy than UVA. They can damage the cells of the skin, impacting the DNA. The main force behind sunburns, these also cause skin cancer.

UVC: These have more energy than other kinds of UV radiation. They generally do not penetrate the atmosphere and are not present in sunlight. They generally do not lead to skin cancer.

However, the first two types of rays can damage the skin and cause cancer. UVB rays are a potent cause of skin cancers. But on the basis of current research conducted, there is no such thing as safe UV rays.

The strength of the UV rays is based on numerous factors such as:

The time:

The rays are at their very worst between 10 in the morning and 4 in the evening

The season:

Depending on which time of the year it is, UV rays are strong or weak. During summer and spring months, the ultraviolet radiation is at its strongest. This is less of a factor close to the equator.

The altitude:

The greater amount of UV rays reach the ground at higher levels of elevation.
The cloud cover: Effects of clouds can also shift. Cloud cover blocks UV radiation from the sun. This lowers exposure to UV rays. But it is important to remember that despite being cloudy, UV rays can penetrate through and harm the skin.

Off the Surface Reflection:

UV rays can also bounce off surfaces such as water, snow, sand, pavement or the grass leading to expanding UV exposure. The amount of exposure a person receives depends on the sun’s rays, the length of time of exposure of the skin, and whether clothing or sunscreen protects you. Those living in the high UV cities of America can be at an additional risk of melanoma. The pattern of the exposure is also critical. Frequent sunburns during an early age can raise the chances of skin cancer years later.

Skin Cancer and Sun’s UV Rays

Skin Cancer and Sun’s UV Rays
Photo By: Mark Jensen/ CC BY

Skin cancer is the consequence of receiving too much sunlight. There are other effects as well. Sunburns and tanning to an extensive degree are also other results. Excessive exposure to UV rays can even exacerbate:

  • Skin-aging
  • Wrinkles
  • Loss of Elasticity of Skin
  • Dark Patches/Liver or Age Spots/Lentigo
  • Pre-Cancer changes to the skin such as dry, scaly rough patches called actinic keratosis.

The sun’s UV rays raise the chance of eye problems such as cataract too. They can lead to immune system suppression as well. Darker-skinned people are more likely than those with light skin to get skin cancer. Immune suppression is an equally likely outcome for both groups of people.

UV Index

An amount of UV light reaching the ground at any point in time is based on numerous factors. This includes the month of the year, time of the day, elevation and cloud cover. To assist people in better understanding the strength of the UV light in the area on a certain day or point in time, the United Nations Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service have developed this index. This provides an understanding of how strong the UV light is on a scale from 1 to 11+. A larger number means a massive risk of exposure to UV rays and a greater chance of a sunburn and skin damage leading to melanoma. See the table below to know more.

City, StateUV Index
ALBUQUERQUE NM9
LITTLE ROCK AR9
ANCHORAGE AK3
LOS ANGELES CA8
ATLANTIC CITY NJ7
LOUISVILLE KY8
ATLANTA GA9
MEMPHIS TN9
BALTIMORE MD7
MIAMI FL10
BILLINGS MT6
MILWAUKEE WI6
BISMARCK ND6
MINNEAPOLIS MN5
BOISE ID7
MOBILE AL10
BOSTON MA 7
NEW ORLEANS LA3
BUFFALO NY7
NEW YORK NY6
BURLINGTON VT6
NORFOLK VA8
CHARLESTON WV8
OKLAHOMA CITY OK9
CHARLESTON SC8
OMAHA NE5
CHEYENNE WY7
PHILADELPHIA PA6
CHICAGO IL7
PHOENIX AZ9
CLEVELAND OH7
PITTSBURGH PA7
CONCORD NH7
PORTLAND ME7
DALLAS TX8
PORTLAND OR6
DENVER CO6
PROVIDENCE RI7
DES MOINES IA7
RALEIGH NC8
DETROIT MI6
SALT LAKE CITY UT8
DOVER DE7
SAN FRANCISCO CA8
HARTFORD CT7
SAN JUAN PU12
HONOLULU HI12
SEATTLE WA6
HOUSTON TX9
SIOUX FALLS SD5
INDIANAPOLIS IN7
ST. LOUIS MO8
JACKSON MS9
TAMPA FL9
JACKSONVILLE FL9
WASHINGTON DC7
LAS VEGAS NV8
WICHITA KS7
Source: National Weather Service

According to the American Cancer Society, cases of melanoma have been rising, as per the American Cancer Society. This is also a common form of cancer among those in the 25 to 29 age bracket.

Most people do not adequately protect themselves from the sun even after surviving skin cancer! A Yale School study found 1/4 of melanoma survivors do not wear sunscreen.

As the sun’s rays are stronger heading into summer, the focus should be on sun protection. This protects against cancer and other sun damage. Here are the factors that you need to consider while opting for sun protection.

How to Protect Yourself

Melanoma Is On The Rise In USSeek shade because the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Limit the sun exposure during these peak hours.

Another important step is to wear protective clothing. Long sleeved shirts, sunglasses, and hats are perfect for blocking the UV rays. Cotton offers protection equivalent to values between 5 and 7 SPF. You need to use fabric with chemical UV absorption for longer time periods to protect yourself in such a case.

Applying broad-spectrum sunscreen is another solution. Broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection from UVB/A rays. A sun protection factor of 30 for your sunscreen is a must. It needs to be reapplied every two hours or more often when you sweat or swim. US FDA guidelines state that lotions with a sun protection factor of as high as 70 offer the same benefits that SPF 30 does. You need to watch out for lotions that offer additional protection.

Reflective surfaces like sand, snow, and water intensify the damage of the sun’s rays and increase the risk of long-term damage and sunburn. Skin cancer is a preventable medical disorder if you keep these guidelines in mind. Nationwide, 24.7 per 100,000 people will receive a verdict of melanoma each year, according to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The UV Index: American Cities by UV Radiation

  • Low levels range from 0 to 2
  • Moderate levels are from 3 to 5
  • High UV levels are 6 or 7
  • Very High UV levels range from 8-10
  • Extreme UV rays are 11 or above

A UV index of 0 to 2 implies low danger from the UV rays of the sun for the average person. In cities with this index, you need to wear sunglasses. An SPF of 30+ is good enough. Watch out for bright snow, water and sand surfaces which raise UV and increase exposure.

A UV Index of 3 to 5 implies a moderate risk of harm from the adverse impact of sun exposure. You need to choose the shade when the sun is strong. Opt for wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking glasses. The broad spectrum sun protection factor 30+ sunscreen needs to be applied every 2 hours. This is even on cloudy days. Look for your shadow to assess how much UV exposure you get. If the shadow lengthens in early mornings and late afternoons, the UV exposure lessens. If the shadow is shorter, one is exposed to high levels of UV radiation. Seek and protect the skin and the eyes.

A UV Index of 6 to 7 implies adverse impact of unprotected sun damage. Protection against eye and skin damage is also required. Apart from the usual sun protection factors, you need to apply sunscreen every 2 hours and watch out for surfaces such as water, snow, and sand, Wearing sunglasses protects the eyelids and the lens.

A UV Index of 8 to 10 means a high risk of damage from unprotected sun exposure. You need to minimize sun exposure between the hours of the day. When outdoors, seek shade and wear protective clothing, a hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses. Be careful regarding routine activities such as playing sports and gardening.
An extreme UV index is of 11 or more meaning excessive risk from unprotected sun
exposure can create a burn in a minute.

UV Radiation in America

At the latitude of Washington DC, around 35 degrees north, UV has risen by 9% since the 1970s. Some of the top areas where the sun’s rays hit hardest are Seattle, Colorado, and Hawaii.

Serious sun damage can occur even when the sky is overcast. For example, the skies in Seattle may be cloudy, but the risk could even be higher than a clear day. This is because clouds magnify UBA and UVB rays so you need to be clear that cloud cover is not the answer here. Colorado is another high altitude destination where UV radiation is massive. At 9,000 feet, for example, UV radiation can be 50% more intense than sea level. Ozone creates a massive problem too. Ozone thinning weather changes and seasonal variations can impact harmful ultraviolet rays reaching the planet. Hawaii is also known as a beach paradise but it is the sand that reflects the sun and destroys the skin, multiplying the impact of UV rays. So, it may be that the top cities with UV radiation may not turn out to be the usual suspects. This is why it is important to consider all factors while examining the link between UV rays and melanoma.

Top 10 American Cities Worst for Skin Troubles 

Which US cities have the worst UV rays and the most negative impact on your skin? Where you live influences how your skin's appearance is besides its health, too. Reduce your odds of skin cancer or premature aging by opting for precautions while living in high-risk areas. To discover which cities in the US come with skin problems, here's a top 10 countdown based on dermatological fees per capita, rates of skin cancer, climate change statistics and healthy lifestyle indicators. Here are the top 10 worst cities for your skin.

#10 Tulsa

Tulsa, Oklahoma is one of the top 10 US cities for skin cancer. It has the highest skin cancer-related deaths in the North American country with 4.1 dead from skin cancer for every 100,000 people, as per the US National Cancer Institute. Most Tulsa residents are not able to exercise. CDC estimates only 25% of adults take part in physical vigorous activities 20 minutes thrice in a week. For Tulsa inhabitants, sunshine can be pretty intense till 5 in the evening during the summers. The high skin-cancer mortality is due to a lack of understanding about how suspicious skin lesions appear. Sun exposure should ideally be avoided. But if not possible, it is essential to seek protection through sun-blocks, sun-screens, and protective clothing.

#9 Fort Worth

Fort Worth, Texas has the largest number of tanning beds. The tanning industry is very prominent and often forces women, especially younger ones to think being tanned all year around is desirable. For limiting this damaging habit, a 2009 law was passed to prevent minors from tanning beds. Intense suns during long-drawn-out summers and fewer dermatologists per capita add to the perils of living in Fort Worth. Preventing burns from day one is important by avoiding the hot Texas sun all year round, especially when the shadows become shorter. During the winters, a large dose of UVA rays are visible and lead to the development of skin cancer/melanoma as against UVB rays. UVA rays are also used in tanning beds.

#8 Memphis

As per the CDC data, Memphis has a population that does not exercise. It also has the lowest skin specialists or dermatologists per capita rate. There are 3 dermatology doctors for every 100 thousand people in Memphis. The city is underserved and has a high UV and heat index, along with massive humidity during long and oppressive summers. The importance of physical exercise and sun protection as well as reapplication of broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every couple of hours cannot be emphasized enough. Wearing very light, sun-protective clothing is essential for ensuring affordability.

#7 Charlotte

Charlotte, N. C. is one of the worst cities for the skin on account of high ozone and levels of pollution. With a 26.2 high-ozone day count out of the year, the American Lung Association has also given Charlotte the ranking of the 10th worst city for ozone pollution in the year 2010. The reason why this US city is so polluted could be because of its locale. It is located midway between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Oceans. This causes lack of flowing air on the hottest summer days. The predominance of coal-rich plants has also impacted the city, as has the growing population. Smog is another problem for the skin here. Ozone, as well as pollution levels, impact the skin. But the most critical factor in risking skin problems is undoubtedly sun exposure.

#6 San Diego

San Diego, CA is known for having the most skin cancer cases in the US, and the National Cancer Institute estimates 29.1 melanoma diagnosed cases per 100 thousand people in this city. San Diego is sunny, dry and closer to the beach than LA and Sacramento. People need to, therefore, spend time outside. The city also has summery weather throughout the year, so people wear light clothing with more skin exposed. Some folks work as lifeguards or beach patrol and this requires being outdoors accounting for big doses of sun damage added over the years. San Diego has huge levels of high-ozone and 33.8 days in a year, the ozone levels rise here. A fair number of salons for tanning further complicate the situation. However, this Californian city is known for physically active individuals, with 41.2 percent of adults engaging in vigorous physical activities. It is essential to choose a water resilient formula once you are engaging in water sports, as far as sun blocks go. A long-sleeved guard against rash with UVP or ultraviolet protection factor is also helpful. California has also banned indoor tanning for minors.

#5 Los Angeles

The second most populated US city is Los Angeles. It has the highest number of days with massive ozone levels, specifically 92.3 days. That is 25% of the year. The city is surrounded by hills and so the pollutants are trapped in the basin after being released on the freeways in this CA city. The city also has a low number of dermatological experts at 2.13 for every 100 thousand persons.  For such a sunny city though, it has low melanoma rates.

#4 Sacramento

This Californian city/state capital is the worst when it comes to sun-related skin issues. Nearly 1/3rd of the adult population have a minimum of one sunburn in a year, coinciding with higher than the average death rate from melanoma/skin cancer. Sacramento is known for sunshine and good weather along with an active population that neglects sun protection. The city has a lot of high-ozone days at 44.7 out of the year, coming in third after LA and Fresno in CA for this feature. The city also has a rate of 9 dermatologists per capital for every 100 thousand people. The problem is sunscreen apart, the people of this city need to get total protection against UVA and B rays. Zinc-oxide sunscreens can be a way out, as these don't degrade with time, unlike chemical sunscreens. Sunscreens with antioxidants are advisable even when driving.

#3 Fresno

This North CA city gets a rap for its bad air quality. It also has a high number of ozone high days at 66.2 out of 365 days in a year. The number of high ozone days in CA cities is only higher in LA. Pollution from the Bay Area traps the valley and particulate matters generated by agrarian staff.The city also has a low number of dermatologists per capita. The area has also seen the rise of tanning beds. Many parks here do not provide shade from the sun. The key to following a sun protection regime is to use sunscreens and protective clothing.

#2 Phoenix

This Arizona city is known for its low number of dermatological experts per capita, unrelenting sunshine for most of the year, and a massive number of high-ozone days. Arid climates and lifestyles that focus on the outdoors can create a massive skin hazard. High rates of melanoma, fine lines and wrinkles are observed in young people here. Arizona residents need to watch out for the sun and wear sunscreens and sun protective clothing. Bone dry desert conditions cause further problems for the skin. Lotions and sunscreens with shea butter, Dimethicone, and hyaluronic acid can be beneficial.

#1 Las Vegas

When it comes to skin problems and sun exposure, Las Vegas is not a winner. One-fifth of its people have a smoking problem. Smoking damages blood vessels bringing nutrients in to support healthy skin tissues. A huge number of smokers, combined with the city's elevated location at 2030 feet above the sea level and a desert climate that parches and dehydrates the skin besides baking resident add to the problem. Dryness further accentuates wrinkles, contributes to psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff. It also causes a skin rash due to itching. 22 days a year are high ozone days in this city.

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