Rates of Skin Cancer in New Jersey Higher Than the National Average

James Goydos, M.D.

If you asked the average person where the highest rates of skin cancer were in the United States, the expected response would be in states known for their sunshine. Given we now understand the link between excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) and some forms of skin cancer, the assumption that the incidence of skin cancer is higher in sunny states is an understandable one. However, Florida, “The Sunshine State,” actually has a lower rate of skin cancer compared to others less known for their beach weather.

According to the CDC, states such as Vermont and Minnesota have some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the country. Despite being farther away from the equator than California or Texas, the risk for melanoma is higher in some of the more northern states.

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Cape May Public Beach, New JerseyPhoto by Dan Mall on Unsplash

New Jersey is another state which may surprise many when it comes to the incidence of skin cancer. More Jersey residents get diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, at a higher rate than the national average.

With the hot weather still sweeping the country, many are flocking outdoors seeking activities which can be engaged in safely and socially distanced. For many Jerseyans, that means places like the shore and the local beaches are ripe for adventure. So what can you do to protect yourself outdoors, equipped with the knowledge of the risks of melanoma? Protect your skin.

Melanoma and other forms of skin cancer can be largely preventable. Taking simple measures to safeguard your skin, like wearing sunscreen, UV protective clothing, and seeking shade when outdoors is essential. Avoiding being outdoors during times of peak UV radiation (usually associated with the stronger exposure during the midday) is also important.

“A majority of melanoma is caused by episodic sun burning,” said Dr. James Goydos, former director of the Melanoma and Soft Tissue Oncology Program at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey. He said it typically appears in people in their 40s or 50s, years or even decades after sun damage has occurred. The steps you take today to protect your skin can have an impact on your health years later.

Melanoma is the seventh most common cancer in New Jersey, according to National Cancer Institute. It is an important threat to be aware of so that you can take steps to mitigate your risk.

Thankfully, melanoma is usually easy to spot, as it is often visible on the skin. Learning the ABCDE’s of melanoma is a great way to easily remember what to look out for when examining the skin for potentially problematic skin lesions:

The ABCDE rule is a handy way of recognizing the warning signs of melanoma:

A

is for ‘Asymmetry’. Look out for signs that one half of a spot on your skin is not like the other. If one half of a mole is dissimilar from another, take note.

B

stands for ‘Border’. If there is a spot on your skin that has an irregular or jagged border, be aware.

C

is for ‘Color’. Be on the lookout for spots that have different colors in different areas.

D

is for ‘Diameter’, greater than 6mm, or around the size of a pea or a pencil eraser.

E

is for ‘Evolving’ — shape, size, or color. If the spot on your skin changes, or looks different than the surrounding skin, this could be a warning sign. Monitor often to look for differences over time.

Checking your skin regularly can help increase your chances of early detection. Conduct regular self-skin checks at least once a month, and get an annual check-up with your doctor. You may need to get more regular checks by a professional depending on your health needs, so always verify with your doctor.

With the risks of sun exposure, it is important to note that the sun should not be completely avoided. Sun exposure is good in moderation, but take care to be mindful of the risks before you head to the beach.

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James Goydos is an expert in skin cancer with a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) from Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Goydos is a Board Certified Surgeon specializing in Surgical Oncology. Recognized for his leadership in patient care by the Melanoma Research Foundation and The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, James Goydos is a leading expert in his field with over 20 years of experience as a professor, surgeon, and clinical trial leader in the area of cancer research. He is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded investigator. Many of his collaborative laboratory discoveries have been translated into clinical trials for patients with melanoma. James Goydos is the author or co-author of more than 80 peer-reviewed publications, review articles, book chapters, and published abstracts. He currently serves on the editorial board of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

New Brunswick, NJ
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