Washington ranks among the top 10 states for the highest rates of newly diagnosed cancerous melanoma of the skin, according to Washington State Department of Health. Data from the Washington State Cancer Registry (WSCR) shows that the rates have been increasing by about 2 percent each year since 2000.
During 2010-2014 combined, Kitsap was among seven counties that had higher rates of newly diagnosed cancerous melanoma of the skin than the state as a whole. The other counties were Jefferson, Island, King, San Juan, Skagit and Snohomish.
Melanoma comprises less than 1 percent of skin cancer cases, yet accounts for the majority of deaths related to skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society says. The probability of developing invasive melanoma over their lifetime is 1 in 28 for women and 1 in 44 for men.
The reasons for the surprising rates in the Puget Sound area are not completely understood, according to WSDOH. Health officials speculate it may be due in part to a mistaken assumption that, since skies are often overcast and temperatures mild, the risk of sun damage is low.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency says that 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds and reflect off surfaces like water, sand or snow, further increasing our exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
“It may be surprising that skin cancer is high in areas where rain and clouds dominate the sky for so many months of the year,” said Janna Bardi, who oversees the department’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Programs. “But by checking the daily UV index, you can better prepare yourself and your family for the day ahead.”
Finding the daily UV levels is as simple as doing a quick web search (EPA, for example, has a website with a daily UV index) or downloading an app that sends notification sent to your phone. A score of three or higher means you need to slather on the sunscreen.