A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that melanoma rates doubled between 1982 and 2011 in the U.S. In Kansas, the malignant melanoma rates increased significantly during the past decade from 16.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 23.4 cases per 100,000 people in 2011. More than 700 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed among Kansans in 2011.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer. More than 90 percent of melanoma skin cancers are due to skin cell damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) recommends taking steps to protect yourself against UV exposure.

  • Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going in the sun and then once every two hours when you are outdoors or after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

“Protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen,” said Secretary Susan Mosier, MD, MBA. “Find shade outside, especially in the middle of the day when the sun is most intense, and wear a hat or other clothing that covers your skin.”

Reducing sunburns is a priority of the Kansas Cancer Prevention and Control Plan (2012-2016). “Ultraviolet rays, whether directly from the sun or from a tanning bed, cause DNA damage which greatly increases cancer risk,” said Dr. Gary Doolittle, medical oncologist and Chair of the Kansas Cancer Partnership.

Related: May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month