NH DHHS - Melanoma Rates Higher for Young Women in New Hampshire

Concord, NH – A new report completed by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) shows that young women in New Hampshire are at increased risk for melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer. Cases of melanoma in New Hampshire have increased dramatically and this study was meant to reveal if this is due to better reporting of cancers or from a true increase in cancer rates.

The results of this study indicate that New Hampshire melanoma rates are similar to the rising trends occurring nationally and that better reporting may explain the recent rise in New Hampshire melanoma rates. Yet for New Hampshire females ages 15-39, the past five years indicated a melanoma rate that is 38% higher than their peers nationally in the same age and ethnic group (non-Hispanic whites).

The most likely cause of this increase in melanoma is excess environmental exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and indoor tanning equipment. National surveys of sun exposure and tanning bed use suggest that young women may be a unique subgroup of people whose tanning behaviors lead to increased risk factors for melanoma. Skin cancer is the most common type of environmentally related cancer, and melanoma is a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer. Almost 400 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed among New Hampshire residents each year.

“Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS. “If you’re concerned about excess UV exposure and the risk of skin cancer, plan to visit your primary care provider or a dermatologist for a skin exam. Also taking some simple preventive steps can help to reduce your risk of skin cancer.”

To help residents prepare for the summer sun, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services offers the following tips:

Don’t burn; sunburn is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. Even in shade you burn, particularly if the sun reflects off of water, snow, sand or concrete.

Seek shade during midday hours when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.

Protect your skin with sunscreen.

Wear sunscreen with a minimum of Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 or higher. Sunscreen wears off, so reapply every two hours and after swimming or activities that make you sweat. Check the expiration date on the sunscreen. For those lotions without dates, there is a shelf life of not more than three years, and less if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

Wear protective clothing that is loose fitting. Wet clothes offer less UV protection than dry clothes, and darker colors may provide more protection than lighter colors.

Don’t forget to cover your head and protect your ears and neck. Avoid straw hats that let light in and use ones made of tightly woven fabric such as canvas.

Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.

Sunglasses can help you avoid cataracts and sun damage to the skin around your eyes. Wraparound glasses are the best because they let in less sunlight.

Keep up to date on sun safety news: www.sunsafetyalliance.org/

Many prescription drugs can make people more susceptible to the damaging rays of the sun. Always check with your doctor about this issue.

Check the UV Index. It provides valuable information that can help you prevent overexposure to the sun. View your local UV index at: www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html.

Get vitamin D safely through a diet that includes foods fortified with vitamin D. You don’t need a lot of sun exposure to maintain a healthy vitamin D level.

Avoid the use of tanning beds and sunlamps. The type and amount of UV radiation emitted from some tanning beds appear to be similar to that of noontime summer sun, and in some cases, the amount is even higher than the sun would emit. Artificial UV radiation can substantially damage the skin (i.e., cause sunburn) and has been linked to melanoma of the eye. The World Health Organization recommends that no person under the age of 18 years use tanning beds because of the associated increased risk for skin cancer. Use of tanning devices before the age of 30 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%.

To view the NH Melanoma Issue Brief, go to:

For more information about sun safety and skin cancer, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/ .