While most of Washington is used to rainy days and overcast skies, new data reveals residents are getting more sun exposure than they may think, as statistics report the rate of melanoma cases are on the rise.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer, and according to data from the Washington State Cancer Registry, the rates have been increasing by about 2 percent per year since 2000. According to the Department of Health, Washington is in the top 10 states for the highest rates of newly diagnosed melanoma cases.
Puget Sound communities, specifically Jefferson, Island, King, San Juan, Kitsap, Skagit, and Snohomish counties, also have significantly higher levels of sun damage than the rest of the state. Between 2010 and 2014, the rates of newly diagnosed cancer cases from these communities combined were higher than those of the state as a whole.
This news may come as a surprise to Washington residents, who are used to the gray weather and lack of sun. However, according to the Department of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency says that 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays pass through clouds and can be reflected off water, sand, and snow.
"It may be surprising that skin cancer is high in areas where rain and clouds dominate the sky for so many months of the year," said Janna Bardi, who oversees the department's Comprehensive Cancer Control Programs, in a release. "But by checking the daily UV index, you can better prepare yourself and your family for the day ahead."
Daily UV indexes can be found online, but keep an eye out for scores higher than three: That's your cue to pull out a hat and sunscreen.
To raise awareness of skin cancer exposure, the Department of Health is hosting Don't Fry Day family events on Friday, May 26. The events will be held at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and Woodland Park Zoo,