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Your Skin Cancer Risk, Ranked By State

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Summer’s now in full swing, which means the sunburn struggle is real. And while most of us associate crispy skin—and therefore higher chances of developing skin cancer—with sunny states, a new report suggests that those who don’t live in the warmest weather are actually at a higher risk for developing the disease. 

The states with the highest skin cancer risk are Idaho, Vermont, Washington, Utah, and Maine, according to a report by health care data company, Vitals. Ironically, it’s the residents of the vacation destinations that are least likely to develop the derma disease, with Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and North Carolina last on the “most likely” list. (Check out The 35 Best Beaches in America for Fitness Lovers.)

What’s up with this backwards logic? “When it comes to an increased risk of melanoma, it seems that the total amount you’re exposed to the sun is not as significant as how often you’re sunburned,” explains Micole Tuchman, M.D., a general and cosmetic dermatologist in NYC and Vitals advisor. People who live up north spend less time in the sun and therefore burn more easily when they vacation to sunny spots. People who live in southern states, on the other hand, are chronically exposed to rays and therefore less likely to sunburn and develop melanoma, Tuchman explains. (Stay safe with these 20 Sun Products to Help Protect Your Skin.)

“As further proof, melanoma is most commonly found on the legs and back—areas rarely exposed to the sun during much of the year in northern states, and therefore areas that are paler and more prone to sunburn,” she adds. Conversely, the face—an area that is chronically exposed to the sun even in colder climates—has a very low incidence of melanoma.

This all makes perfect sense, but we certainly never thought about it that way before. And since the rate of melanoma cases in the U.S. has doubled in the last three decades, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s important that even people who think they’re safe from melanoma or other skin cancers follow the rules for soaking up rays safely. Need a refresher on those rules? Check out the infographic below—then lather up! (Psst: Did you know Consuming Citrus Could Up Your Skin Cancer Risk?)

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