State: Skin cancer rates rising fast in Minn.

Skin cancer screening
Dr. Jonette Keri, a Miami dermatologist, examines Amy Rey for symptoms of skin cancer due to sun exposure in this file photo from June 15, 2011. The state Department of Health reports that skin cancer rates are rising among Minnesotans.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Minnesota Department of Health says that skin cancer rates have been growing quickly among Minnesotans, and officials are urging people to avoid the sun — even in winter.

The department says melanoma cancer rates rose 35 percent for men and 38 percent for women between 2005 and 2009, the most recent data available.

Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said warm-weather winter vacations present perfect opportunities for exposure to ultraviolet light. "Folks ... need to be worried about sun exposure at all times of the year, and at all ages," Ehlinger said.

The health department says that's particularly true for women. The rate of melanoma for white Minnesota women between 18 and 49 has doubled since 1995.

"Although the mortality has remained stable, the incidence of the disease is increasing," Ehlinger said. "And this mirrors a national trend that has been going on since the mid 70s. A lot of this is due to increased sun exposure and increased exposure to tanning beds."

Ehlinger said use of tanning beds to get a "base tan" doesn't help, and simply increases exposure to ultraviolet light that can cause skin cancers.

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