Fashion & Beauty

Sunless in Seattle

Sunless in Seattle
Washington state has one of highest rates of skin cancer in the United States. (Image: Tommy-Gene Harlow / Seattle Refined)
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We are all anxiously waiting spring, and the warmer temperatures, longer days and sunshine that it brings.

On a recent trip to the dermatologist (a little re-up on the Botox!), she asked me if I had been using my sunscreen this winter. My answer was “not as much as I should” - we had those few nice, sunny, spring-like days where I went sans sunscreen and enjoyed every vitamin-D-loving-minute of it. Sure, I had a few freckles peek out, but it felt great.

Thus began the rant from my dermatologist about how important sunscreen is, even if it’s not that sunny, and EVEN in Seattle. When I brought this episode up with some of my clients later on, I was caught off guard by how many of them had melanoma.

And let’s get this straight - these aren’t women who are “tan moms.” Some people flippantly don’t care about skin cancer, thinking it will be easy to remove a mole or two.

But what they don’t know are that the scars from a removal are often much larger than you would expect. The doctor has to remove as much as possible to get a clean margin to insure no skin cancer is left behind.

Moral of the story? Use that sunscreen everyday in at least an SPF 15. Make sure to have broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. Apply generously and 15-20 minutes before going outside. And avoid the tanning beds at all costs.

I did a little research and what I found was a little bit shocking. Washington State has the highest rates of skin cancer in the U.S., even higher than California, Texas, Arizona, or Hawaii. SERIOUSLY PEOPLE.

Here are some stats from the Center for Disease Control and Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Sunburns. A 2004 survey found that 43.6% of white adults in Washington had at least one sunburn in the past year.
  • New Cases of Melanoma. The rate of new melanoma diagnoses was 35% higher in Washington than the national average from 2001-2005. An estimated 1,900 state residents were diagnosed with melanoma in 2008.
  • Island County has one of the top 10 rates of new melanoma diagnoses among counties nationwide, 130% above the national average.
  • Deaths from Melanoma. Approximately 175 people in Washington die of melanoma every year. 


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