Free skin cancer screenings, sun safety teachings at the State Fair

Crowds of people walk through the streets at the Minnesota State Fair
Thousands of fairgoers flocked to the first day of the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights, Minn. on Thursday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Don’t forget to apply sunscreen when you head out to enjoy the Minnesota State Fair.

Minnesota ranked third among states with the highest rate of melanoma, one form of skin cancer, according to a study released last month by QuoteWizard. From 2015-2019, 35 skin cancer cases were reported in Minnesota for every 100,000 people — a whopping 13 percent increase in cases from 2015-2019.

Comparatively, Utah, ranked No. 1 in skin cancer cases per 100,000 population with 41, and Vermont, ranked 2 with 37, had lower increases over the same period: Utah saw an 8 percent increase and Vermont experienced a 1 percent rise in cases.

More concerning news for Minnesota and skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control: In 2019, the number of skin cancer cases per 100,000 population inched up to 36.

The states with the lowest rates include Texas (50), Alaska (49) and New Mexico (48). Cooler states have nearly triple the skin cancer cases than warmer states, QuoteWizard noted, attributing that trend due to sunnier state residents “doing a better job of protecting themselves from the sun by applying sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and avoiding severe sunburns.”

If it does slip your mind to slather on the SPF, the health care professionals at the fair’s Free Skin Cancer Screenings Tent will remind you on Saturday of the importance of sunscreen as well as provide other skin health tips to visitors.

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M Health Fairview and the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center will administer free skin cancer checks Saturday to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dermatologists and University of Minnesota Medical School residents will be on hand to conduct the screenings and answer questions from interested parties.

They will also alert visitors to any concerning skin issues found during the screening that should be followed up on with their medical provider. Although the screenings end at 3 p.m., the tent will remain open to 9 p.m. with medical residents providing sun safety information and handing out product giveaways.  

Dr. Ingrid Polcari, with the U of M medical school, M Health Fairview and the Masonic Cancer Center defined the most common cell skin cancers as basal cell and squamous cell, both are often curable with surgery, but rarely spread. Melanoma is a less common skin cancer, “but it’s the most dangerous and can be deadly if it’s not detected early,” Polcari said in an interview on the medical school’s website.

The dermatologist urged preventative measures such as wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect your scalp and ears, and sunglasses to protect your eyes; sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher that is labeled “broad-spectrum.” Sensitive skin types should choose products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, she said.

The skin cancer screening tent, with four private screening areas, is located on the fairgrounds at Underwood Street and Wright Avenue.