Skin cancer rates above national average in Kansas

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Here’s another reason to lather up with sunscreen the next time you go outside – there’s more people with skin cancer in Kansas than most others.

Roger Pine says a farmer’s work means long days in the hot sun.

That’s one of the main reasons officials say the Sunflower State sees some of the most cases of skin cancer in the country – about 10% more than the national average.

“You don’t have a choice of being in the sun or not being in the sun but you do have a choice as to how you protect yourself,” says Lawrence dermatologist Dr. Lee Bittenbender.

One rule of thumb – if your shadow is shorter than your body, that means the sun is at its strongest and probably not the best time to be outside.

“If you can help it,” Bittenbender says, “Now if you’re a farmer, construction worker, you can’t obviously do that, so there it gets to be a matter of wearing screen and it should have SPF of at least 30.”

He adds that slathering sunblock should become a habit early on.

“It’s been estimated that a person gets 80% of their lifetime sun exposure in the first 18 years, so that’s where the effort really needs to be made to try to protect yourself.”

Pine hopes with new equipment that covers farmers along with heightened awareness, skin cancer rates will go down in the future, but Bittenbender says the trend shows skin cancer on the rise.

“And it’s going up pretty dramatically over recent years,” says Bittenbender, “And that’s a reflection of, I think, sun exposure that people get at an early age.”

He adds that for every blistering sunburn a person gets, it doubles their risk of malignant melanoma.

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