doctor examining skin of middle aged woman

Altitude Increases the Risk of Melanoma and Skin Cancer

Utah has the highest number of melanoma and skin cancer cases in the nation. Hospitals and clinics are continually providing treatment for these skin conditions, but prevention is always preferable to the more expensive cures.

Higher Altitude Means Higher UV Concentrations

Most cases of melanoma and skin cancer are caused by constant exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Higher altitude further increases the concentration of UV radiation by as much as 4-7 percent for every 1000 feet of elevation. This means Salt Lake City residents are exposed to 16-28 percent more UV radiation and Park City residents are exposed to a staggering 28-49 percent more UV.

16-49 percent more UV may not seem like a big deal, but that increase in UV concentrations has caused the number of melanomas and skin cancer in Utah to double that of the nation’s average. The U.S. average of melanoma and skin cancer cases is 21 for every 100,000. In Utah, the rate goes up to 42. Park City residents have even higher rates of melanomas at almost 80 cases for every 100,000 people, and these are just the reported and diagnosed cases.

Men Are More Susceptible than Women

doctor checking back of manUtah men are more likely to develop melanoma and skin cancer — almost three times more likely. The work environment can play a significant factor in UV exposure as more men work outside, especially in farming and construction.

Genetics can also play a factor as women might be more resistant to UV damage than men. However, it could also stem from the fact that men are less likely to use sunscreen than women. This negligence to use sunscreen can prove to be dangerous in the long run as sunscreen is one of the best ways to shield the body from unwanted UV radiation.

Men also think very little about skin care, and almost 40 percent of melanoma cases in men were spotted by their spouses. This allows melanomas to grow unabated, which can sometimes lead to severe problems. Regular visits to the doctor or a skincare expert will enable them to check for signs of melanoma and skin cancer and provide early treatment.

More Melanomas on the Left Side of the Body

Doctors in the U.S. have discovered that melanomas are more frequently found on the left side of the body. However, in the UK — melanomas are more frequently found on the right side of the body. On both cases, driving was the overwhelming factor affecting both discoveries.

Car windshields have built-in UV protection, but car windows do not. The daily drive to work regularly exposes drivers to UV radiation through their unprotected car windows. Chronic exposure accumulates damage, increasing the risk of melanoma and skin cancer. An easy solution is to treat car windows with UV filtering films or use sunblock when driving.

Utah is a great place to live in, but living elevated means elevated levels of UV radiation. Wear a hat, apply sunscreen, and get yourself screened regularly for melanoma and skin cancer.