Friday, May 25, 2012

Melanoma in Colorado

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is of particular concern here in Colorado due to Colorado’s altitude and number of sunny days.  Data from the Colorado Central Cancer Registry show that about 1400 melanomas are diagnosed each year.  Colorado incidence rates are around 20% higher than national rates and we have seen rate increases since 1990, especially in men aged 55 and older and women aged 45 and older.

When a melanoma is detected early (at the in situ stage or when it is less than 1 millimeter thick) survival at 5 years is 95%.  By contrast, if melanoma is detected at the latest stage (spread to remote parts of the body), survival at 5 years decreases to 17%. Colorado could do better with early detection.  Since 1990, little has changed with early detection – only about 77% of melanomas are detected early.  Women have slightly better early detection rates compared to men:  80% versus 75%.

Tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation ( to lower your risk for skin cancer:

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Do not burn. A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any point in life.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. 
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.  Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. 
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

Additional resources:
Centers for Disease Control -
American Cancer Society -
Colorado Central Cancer Registry -

1 comment:

  1. Tanning, or better called, sun-exposure, should not not be avoided. It is our most natural source of vitamin-D. To make 10,000 - 15,000 IU vitamin D, it takes only half the exposure to UVB of what it takes to burn your skin. Your advice is therefore not optimal for common health. It would be better to educate people of how to relate to sunshine instead of trying to scare them away. For example, the time between 10 AM and 4 PM is actually the only chance you have to catch some UVB rays from the natural sun. In Colorado it is even during much shorter time in the middle of the day, and during 6 months of the year, it is not possible at all to get UVB from the real sun.
    And about the melanoma awareness month ... It is an important part of the PR-campaign against tanning and for sales of medical skin-care products.
    Here is a view on that ...