Despite being one of the most preventable forms of cancer, skin cancer is also one of the most prevalent. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding sun protection, and the risks for skin cancer are often misunderstood. Taking a look at skin cancer rates around the world can help in understanding skin cancer itself, the biological and environmental risks, and how to stay safe in the sun.
Skin Cancer Rates by Geography
There are more than 2 million cases of skin cancer globally every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Even though sunlight is the main source of UV radiation, there isn't strong evidence to suggest that living in warmer locations increases the risk of skin cancer. The countries with the highest rates of skin cancer in people of all genders are Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.
There is mounting evidence that climate change is affecting skin cancer rates around the world. Factors like ozone depletion, warming temperatures, and ambient air pollution are positively correlated with skin cancer incidence, according to a January 2021 study in the International Journal of Women's Dermatology.
The latitude you live at also affects your risk. A high latitude yields less UV exposure, seeing as the sun's rays must travel farther. Because of this, places with a lower latitude have an increased incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers, the WHO reports.
So, is your skin safer in cold climates? Not necessarily. Sunlight can reflect and scatter across surfaces like snow, pavement, sand, and water, so you may be exposed to UV rays even on winter days and in colder locales.
Skin Cancer Rates by Demographic
Demographics are important for understanding skin cancer risks. Skin cancer incidence can vary based on sex, age, and race or ethnicity. Keep in mind that no one is immune to developing skin cancer, even if your demographic has decreased odds.
Men are more likely to get diagnosed with and die from melanoma skin cancers overall, according to the American Cancer Society. However, melanoma rates are higher among women under 50 than men under 50.
In general, your risk of skin cancer increases with age. The American Cancer Society reports that the average age of a person diagnosed with melanoma is 65.
Melanoma incidence has declined in people aged 30 and younger but has increased in older adults, especially ages 80 and older, reports the American Academy of Dermatology. This is likely due to the accumulation of sun exposure over time.
Though it's more common in older adults, skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among young adults and is especially common among young women.
Race and Ethnicity
Melanoma is 20 times more common in white people than in Black people, according to the American Cancer Society. However, Black people are more likely to die of skin cancer, reports Medical News Today. This is partly because cancerous lesions on darker skin often remain undetected until a later stage.
It's important to seek out a Dermatologist that has experience treating patients with a wide range of skin tones, and who listens and responds to your concerns about your health.
How to Stay Safe
Knowing how to protect your skin from the sun is an important part of understanding skin cancer.
Start by reducing your exposure to the sun's UV rays by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, and applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily. The EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44 is 100% physical, tinted, and suitable for all skin types. It enhances most skin tones while protecting from sun exposure and free radicals. It's also water- and sweat-resistant for up to 40 minutes.
Be mindful of the risk factors for skin cancer, including irregular moles, blond or red hair, a family or personal history of the disease, and more. Get regular checkups at your Dermatologist to examine new spots.
While you can't change some of your predispositions to skin cancer, it's helpful to understand skin cancer rates around the world to better understand this unfortunately common disease.