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States with the Lowest Rates of Skin Cancer

April 28, 2022

Does your state rank high or low when it comes to skin cancer?

A good friend of mine who lives in New Mexico recently made a shocking comment to me. She said she had heard that New Mexico has one of the lowest rates of skin cancer of all 50 states.

My mind raced. Surely, my incredibly well-educated, well-read, red-headed medical writer friend could not be WRONG but… something about this statement felt deeply flawed to me. I mean, having been in the skin care industry for so long, I know that most skin cancers are a result of sun damage, primarily sun burns. And from my fleeting knowledge of New Mexico, I can say with certainty 1/ it is in the southwest and 2/ it can get really hot.

So the idea that this hot and sunny state actually has one of the lowest rates of skin cancer made no sense.

Time to investigate.

And what I found was something I don’t admit to my husband very often. I was wrong.

Turns out the 3 states (depending on which report you read) with the lowest instances of skin cancer are New Mexico (Amy, I apologize for ever doubting you), Texas and, according to one report I read…. HAWAII! What?! All my assumptions now completely turned on their heads, it is time to do a little more analysis (with the help from some awesome medical journals along the way).

So here are some interesting tidbits that now make the entire puzzle just a little more logical.

Let’s start with the most important part of this conundrum: What causes melanoma and other forms of skin cancers?

The simple answer is that it is caused by exposure to UV rays. Severe sunburns damage the DNA of skin cells, causing new skin cells to grow out of control, resulting in cancerous cells. Thus it makes sense that the highest instances of skin cancer/melanoma would be in areas where the UV rays are the strongest. But you also have to account for other factors like percentage of the population that is active in outdoor activities, level of sun protection taken, indoor tanning (yikes!) and early detection.

The states withe the highest instances of skin cancer? Another head scratcher: Utah, Vermont and New Hampshire (sometimes, I will see Washington D.C. thrown in that list as well).

Here is another interesting piece of information: In one particular study I read, men had 160% more cases of skin cancer than women. Riddle me that one.

After reading NUMEROUS medical journals and articles on this subject, here is my take away, and one that I did not come up with myself:

The MAIN reason behind the fact that states with the strongest UV rays actually have the lowest rate of skin cancers is (drum roll): AWARENESS. Preparedness. Knowledge. Consistent action.

People in sun-drenched states know the dangers of the sun. They buy SPF clothing, they wear huge hats, stay in the shade, apply sunscreen religiously. They don’t go to tanning beds. Even the media in those states helps with the education. They have it drilled into them from day one that sun protection is a must.

On the flip side, those lovely mountains in Utah are sometimes drenched in inversion – keeping the clouds locked into one place and giving the population below the lovely illusion that the sun is not shining ABOVE the clouds and therefore, no sun protection is necessary. Bring on the UV burn, baby!

And as for that fact about men being more skin cancer prone than women? What gender more stereotypically takes care of their skin? Yup. Women. We buy all the fancy creams, go to the dermatologist, apply sunscreen religiously and try to stay out of the sun because we don’t want wrinkles.  From my personal experience, getting men to apply moisturizer on a daily basis is a tough job in and of itself!

So what is the take away we want you to have from reading this (if you stayed reading for this long!)?

Be prepared. Be knowledgable. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you “tan well.” Wear sunscreen on cloudy days. Wear sunscreen even if you aren’t going outside that day because 1/ it doesn’t hurt and 2/ you never know when your day’s plans may change. Wear your dorky big hat with pride. And above all else, if something looks weird on your skin, get it checked out immediately.

Questions? Comments?  Contact us at or call/text at 925.933.8425


State New case rate Total new cases Melanoma-related deaths
Utah 40.4 5,248 712
Vermont 37.6 1,505 68
New Hampshire 32.1 2,691 1,053
Minnesota 31.7 9,759 400
Delaware 29.5 1,722 4,479
Idaho 28.1 2,526 813
Montana 27.5 1,725 468
Oregon 27.5 6,602 161
Iowa 27.3 4,863 3,577
Kentucky 27.3 6,861 1,186
Georgia 26.7 14,136 133
Kansas 26.6 4,247 295
Nebraska 26.4 2,704 1,649
Maine 26.2 2,301 1,010
Washington 26.1 10,482 518
North Carolina 26 14,879 477
South Dakota 25.4 1,204 782
Florida 24.8 33,760 469
Arizona 24.5 9,802 248
Pennsylvania 24.3 19,119 674
Maryland 24 8,066 1,045
Wisconsin 24 8,098 1,361
Ohio 23.8 16,192 719
Rhode Island 23.7 1,532 362
North Dakota 23.6 937 985
South Carolina 23.6 6,847 168
California 22.9 47,477 288
Wyoming 22.9 758 413
Colorado 22.3 6,440 229
Massachusetts 22.3 8,969 1,177
New Jersey 22.3 11,689 287
Oklahoma 22.2 4,768 2,183
Hawaii 21.8 1,887 1,410
Arkansas 21.7 3,740 97
Indiana 21.7 7,989 1,923
Alabama 21.6 6,081 605
West Virginia 21.4 2,466 635
Connecticut 20.4 4,464 2,111
Illinois 20.4 14,634 154
Tennessee 20.3 7,710 667
Virginia 20.2 9,444 121
Michigan 20.1 11,681 1,122
Missouri 19.5 6,816 2,585
New York 18.3 20,910 380
Mississippi 17.8 2,943 103
Louisiana 17.6 4,460 1,125
Nevada 16.9 2,708 1,074
New Mexico 16 1,976 365
Alaska 14.3 483 851
Texas 13.1 17,482 102
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