Skin Cancer in Washington State

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Some people are at higher risk for skin cancer than others, but anyone can get it. The most preventable cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from tanning beds. 

Washingtonians have high rates of melanoma, the most harmful type of skin cancer. If the Puget Sound were a state, it would have the fifth highest melanoma rate in the nation.

Did You Know?


Washington State is among the top ten states for highest skin cancer incidence (CDC Statistics by State).

Why is this Important?


Myth: Sun safety is only for hot and sunny days.Fact: Cloud cover reduces UV levels, but not completely. Depending on the thickness of the cloud cover, it is possible to burn on a cloudy day, even if it does not feel warm. Surfaces like snow, sand, pavement, and water reflect much of the UV radiation that reaches them. Because of this reflection, UV intensity can be high even in shaded areas.

Myth: Skin Cancer is not a huge problem, there are more deadly cancers.Fact: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year than all other cancers combined.

How Can I Prevent Skin Cancer?


Know the UV index (UVI) rate!

UVI gives an indication of the level of UV radiation and the potential danger of sun exposure.

UV index codes

Nearly all skin cancers could be prevented by limiting unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. When skin cancers do occur, most can be treated successfully if detected early—even melanoma, the most serious type. There are many ways to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation:

There are many ways to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation:

  • Seek shade when you can.
  • Avoid the sun when UV rays are strongest, generally between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Generously apply sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher with broad spectrum protection), and don't let your skin tan or burn.

Learn More About Skin Cancer


What can you do to reduce Risk?

Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow. Indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan) exposes users to UV radiation.

The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Daylight Saving Time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors in the continental United States. UV rays from sunlight are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.

CDC recommends easy options for protection from UV radiation:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays
  • Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 30 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection. See the American Academy of Dermatologist infographic on this page, "How to Select a Sunscreen."
  • Avoid indoor tanning