Manasota Beach in Englewood recently.

There are some drawbacks to being the Sunshine State.

For one, Florida had the 18th highest rate of skin cancer deaths in the United States in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 2,000 people in Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota counties suffered from skin cancer between 2011 and 2015, according to that data.

And now is the time to be aware.

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness month.

The disease is the most common form of cancer nationwide. Though most forms of the cancer are non-melanoma and can be treated, 1 percent of all skin cancers are melanoma and cause 90 percent of skin cancer deaths, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Two of the most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are curable.

These three types of cancer are mostly caused by overexposure to ultraviolet light, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Skin cancer is the sixth most common cancer harming Floridians, with 29,913 occurrences between 2011 and 2015, the CDC data shows.

That equates to 23.2 occurrences per 100,000 people.

But Charlotte and Sarasota counties have a higher rate than the state average, according to that data.

“If you notice changes in your skin, you should consult with your health care provider,” said Joe Pepe, the interim administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County.

In DeSoto County, from 2011-2015, there were 52 new cases of Melanomas of the skin. For every 100,000 people, 23.1 Melanomas of the skin cases were reported in DeSoto, which is close to the state average in that time, CDC data shows.

Between 2011 and 2015, Charlotte County had 536 occurrences of Malanomas of the skin, or 30.3 per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, Sarasota County had 1,454 occurrences, or 38.7 per 100,000 people.

The good news is that Floridians are considered "appropriately concerned" about skin cancer, according to a study conducted by Advanced Dermatology. The study compared rates of skin cancer to Google search trends, which showed even though Floridians have an average rate of skin cancer compared to other states, Floridians also have a high interest in preventing the disease. 

Although it is common, skin cancer is also preventable and highly treatable when detected early, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“Spending time outdoors not only allows you to enjoy Florida’s natural beauty, it can also improve your overall health and wellness,” said the former State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “We are incredibly fortunate to live in the Sunshine State, but we should all use sun protection like broad spectrum sunscreen, hats and sunglasses whenever we’re outside in order to reduce our risk of skin cancer or melanoma.”

One of the most important ways to prevent skin cancer is sunscreen.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated their regulations for sunscreen in February. The proposal addresses sunscreen safety, dosage forms, and SPF and broad-spectrum requirements. It also updates how these products will be labeled, and is seeking data to determine to what extent active ingredients in sunscreen can be absorbed through the skin.

But, you may want to be selective about what brand you choose.

The Environmental Working Group, a national nonprofit agency, analyzed the effectiveness of more than 1,300 sunscreens and found that over 60 percent of them would not pass tests proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to CNN.

Other ways to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective clothing, sunglasses and a hat, as well as seeking shade whenever possible during periods of peak sunlight, according to the FDA.


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