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CDC: Idaho leads nation in melanoma death rate

Idaho had the highest melanoma death rate nationally between 2001 and 2005, 26 percent higher than the national average with about 40 Idahoans dying of melanoma every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s skin cancer state statistics.

The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/cancer/ skin/statistics/state.htm) show that in 2012, Idahoans developed melanoma at a rate of 26.9 per 100,000 each year.

Nationwide, someone dies of melanoma every minute, meaning it is the most common cancer in the United States. The rates of melanoma have been increasing for 30 years. Yet it is mostly preventable by decreasing exposure to ultraviolet light from either the sun or tanning beds.

Washington had the 16th highest melanoma death rate nationally between 2001 and 2005, which is 7.4 percent higher than the national average. That means about 175 Washingtonians die of melanoma every year. The 2012 rate of Washingtonians who developed melanoma was 25 per 100,000 people.

The reasons for the high rates in Idaho and Washington are a mystery, but they illustrate that even in cloudy areas, skin protection is crucial. UV rays reflect off water, which is common in both Idaho and Washington.

“It’s not 100 percent clear why the rates are a little higher,” said Chadd Sukut, a board certified dermatologist and surgeon at Advanced Dermatology Skin and Surgery Center in Spokane. “The exact reasons haven’t been substantiated.”

Squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers are the most common type of skin cancers – with more cases annually than the combined incidents of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer. Although more rare, melanoma is responsible for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

In Idaho, the annual rate of new melanoma diagnoses was 34 percent higher than the national average and the seventh highest in the United States, with an estimated 360 Idahoans diagnosed with melanoma in 2008. (www.epa.gov/sites/ production/files/ documents/id_facts_web. pdf)

Washington had the fifth highest rate of new melanoma diagnoses in the nation, 35 percent higher. In 2008, an estimated 1,900 Washingtonians were diagnosed with melanoma.

Island County, which includes Camano and Whidbey islands, has one of the top 10 rates of new melanoma diagnoses among counties nationwide, 130 percent above the national average. (www.epa.gov/ sites/production/files/ documents/wa_facts_ print.pdf)

If the Puget Sound area were a state, it would have the fifth highest rate in the nation, according to United Against Cancer in Washington State.

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