Skin Cancer Increasing in Washington; Highest in Puget Sound

Washington ranks among the top 10 states for the highest rates of newly diagnosed cancerous melanoma of the skin. According to data from the Washington State Cancer Registry (WSCR), the rates have been increasing by about 2% each year since 2000. During 2010-2014 combined, Jefferson, Island, King, San Juan, Kitsap, Skagit and Snohomish counties had higher rates of newly diagnosed cancerous melanoma of the skin than the state as a whole.

The reasons for the surprising rates in the Puget Sound area are not completely understood; 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 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds and reflect off of 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, 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.