Living elevated comes with a price, and that price is a higher risk of skin cancer. Utah has one of the highest rate of skin cancer in the nation, especially among the younger demographics. A combination of several factors has made Utahns more susceptible and more vulnerable to the dreaded disease.
Utah’s elevation has exposed the state to higher concentrations of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. For every 1,000 feet of elevation, the strength of UV radiation rises by as much as 7 percent. Park City residents have it the worst, getting bombarded by close to 50 percent more UV, but even Salt Lake City residents get exposed to significantly more radiation at 28 percent. Sadly, nothing can be done about the excessive amounts of UV radiation short of moving to a less elevated state.
Ninety percent of Utahns have fair skin, and this makes them more likely to develop skin cancers. The low levels of melanin in fair-skinned people give them far less protection from the sun compared to people with darker skins. They are more likely to get damaged by the sun through sunburns, and getting a single sunburn multiplies your chances of developing skin cancer. Constant and prolonged sun exposure throughout your life also leads to a higher risk of skin cancer. Utah’s large senior population also have been bombarded by higher concentrations of UV for more than 50 years, making them one of the most vulnerable groups in Utah.
An Outdoor Culture
When it comes to obesity and diabetes, Utahns are some of the healthiest people in the nation. The Utahn outdoor culture and an active lifestyle are some of the factors that contributed to the well-being of Utah residents. Sadly, the same factors also make Utahns more vulnerable to skin cancer. More time outdoors means more sun exposure and damage from the sun’s UV radiation accumulates within the body.
Avoiding UV Prevents Skin Cancer
You won’t change state, you can’t change your skin color, and you can’t do away with your active lifestyle as that means trading skin cancer for diabetes. However, you can protect yourself directly from dangerous UV radiation. Avoid sun exposure whenever you can and if you must be outside for long periods, use sunscreen. Sunscreen can block up to 99 percent of UV radiation, so you need to stock up on sunscreen if you’re serious about avoiding skin cancer. Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, or even use an umbrella. If sunlight doesn’t touch your skin, it’s not giving you cancer. To be safe, treat your car windows with UV filtering film. Your daily drive to work exposes you to significant amounts of UV and years of exposure can lead to skin cancer. If you’re a little bit more paranoid, treat your house’s windows and doors with the same UV filtering film.
Unlike most cancers, skin cancer is 100 percent treatable if discovered early. Take a trip to your dermatologist if you have suspicions that you or a family member might have the condition and stay clear of the sun whenever you can.