Staying Safe in the Skin Cancer Capital of the USA

Doctor checking patient's skin
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Park City and the rest of Summit County has the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the USA. The elevation is the primary factor in the increased risk among residents, but specific measures can mitigate the situation.

UV Damage and Skin Cancer

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation and its harmful effects are the leading causes of melanomas and other forms of skin cancer. UV damage that causes sunburns can multiply your risk of developing skin cancer, but everyday exposure can also heighten your risk. UV concentrations increase with elevation by as much as 7 percent for every 1,000 feet of elevation. With Summit County’s 7,000 feet of elevation, residents are exposed to almost 50 percent more UV. The high levels of UV exposure have made residents more vulnerable to skin cancer and melanomas, with County rates for the two conditions almost double the national average. This vulnerability is further heightened by the predominant fair skin of Utah residents as well as their love for the outdoors.

sun shining over the village

Safety at Home

Chronic exposure to UV can occur even at the security of your own home. Big glass windows and doors, designed to let the sunlight in, are the worst culprits. Constant sun exposure during mornings and over weekends can accumulate damage and increase your cancer risk. While it may seem awkward to wear sunscreen inside the house, you can always use blinds or better yet, have your windows tinted with UV filtering film. UV film prevents up to 99 percent of harmful UV from entering your house. UV film provides a modicum of insulation from the sun’s heat, so you might need to ramp up your heating during winter. While you’re at it, get the same UV filtering film for your vehicles. Those few minutes driving to work and back exposes you to significant amounts of UV, making your daily drives one of the most significant risk factors.

Protective Clothing, Umbrellas, and Sunblock

Your dermatologist probably advised you to wear hats. Hats are a great way to protect your face and neck from sunlight; the wider the brim, the better the coverage. Wear long-sleeved shirts when going out, especially when the UV index is particularly high. You can quickly get an app that provides UV alerts and then dress accordingly. Take your sun protection to a whole new level by using a UV umbrella when you go out. While any umbrella can provide sun protection, darker umbrellas and those designed specifically for UV protection are a much better choice. If wearing protective clothing and using an umbrella is not an option, then at least use sunscreen. Sunscreen can block more than 95 percent of harmful UV rays for a couple of hours. Higher SPF can block more UV, but the difference between 95 percent and 99 percent isn’t that significant. What’s essential in using sunscreen is consistent application.

When it comes to skin cancer, there’s such a thing as too much elevation. However, you can still protect yourself from UV and mitigate your risk of developing the dreaded disease.

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