May Skin Cancer Awareness

Utah and Skin Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, more cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer cases combined.

The Utah Department of Health has indicated that Utah has the highest rate of new melanoma skin cancer cases in the country, which is higher than other states such as Arizona, California, Florida and Hawaii which are considered the sunny states. People who live in areas with high elevation, where sunlight is reflected by water, snow and ice, are at a greater risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Utah’s melanoma mortality rate is 30-percent higher than the national average as well.


  • Each year in the U.S. over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
  • Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. BCCs are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer.
  • Approximately 40 to 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma at least once.
  • Actinic keratosis is the most common pre-cancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.
  • About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
  • The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the U.S. is estimated at $8.1 billion: about $4.8 billion for non-melanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma.

Most Common Skin Cancer

The most common form of skin cancer is called basal cell carcinoma. These cancers are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). They often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps or scars, and are usually caused by a combination of cumulative and occasional sun exposure.

Basal cell carcinoma almost never spreads (metastasizes) beyond the original tumor site. Only in exceedingly rare cases can it spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. It shouldn’t be taken lightly, though: it can be disfiguring if not treated promptly.

More than one out of every three new cancers is a skin cancer, and the vast majority are BCCs.

Treatment for Skin Cancer

Mohs micrographic surgery has the highest cure rate of all skin cancer treatments: up to 99 percent. The Mohs technique is also the treatment of choice for cancers of the face and other sensitive areas, as it relies on the accuracy of a microscopic surgical procedure to trace the edges of the cancer and ensure complete removal of all tumors down to the roots.

Mohs surgery is the most advanced and effective treatment procedure for skin cancer available today. The procedure is performed by specially trained surgeons who have completed at least one additional year of fellowship training in addition to the physician’s three-year dermatology residency.

Initially developed by Dr. Frederic E. Mohs, the Mohs procedure is a state-of-the-art treatment that has been continuously refined over the last 70 years. With the Mohs technique, physicians are able to see beyond the visible disease to precisely identify and remove the entire tumor layer by layer while leaving the surrounding healthy tissue intact and unharmed. As the most exact and precise method of tumor removal, it minimizes the chance of re-growth and lessens the potential for scarring or disfigurement.

Skin Cancer Prevention Guidelines

  1. Seek shade rather than sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  2. Do NOT sunburn or suntan
  3. Avoid tanning beds and UV tanning booths
  4. Cover up with clothing, including a broad brimmed hat and UV blocking sunglasses
  5. Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day, including cloudy days. For extended outdoor activity, use a water resistant, broad spectrum (UVA-UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  6. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
  7. Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of 6 months.
  8. Examine your skin heat-to-toe every 6 months. Look at your backside in the mirror or have a loved one check hard to see areas including your scalp.

Below are products recommendations that meet the criteria of safe and effective UV sun protection.

  1. Chemical Sunscreens

These sunscreens that cause a reaction that diffuses the solar radiation to prevent damage to the skin. Historically, these sunscreens were not as effective at blocking UVA and UVB but there are formulations on that contain something called “helioplex” and another called “ecamsule” or “mexoryl” that help protect against this wave length.

Recommended products:

  • Neutrogena (contains helioplex)
  • Anthelios by LaRoche Posay (contains ecamsule/mexoryl)

While some concern has been expressed about possible toxicity with chemical sunscreen use, good data are lacking to prove they are harmful. However, if a person wishes to avoid the possibility altogether, a physical sunscreen can be used.

  1. Physical sunscreens

These sunscreens block the sun and include products such as zinc and titanium. They work for both UVA and UVB. Some versions leave an obvious white residue on the skin, but some may be less likely to cause the “pasty” look.

Recommended products:

  • TiZo made by Solar Protection Formula
  • SkinCeuticals Ultimate UV Defense

Michael R. Hinckley, MD
Dermatologist & Mohs Micrographic Surgeon

Dr. Michael R. Hinckley is a Board Certified Dermatologist and Fellowship-trained Skin Cancer (“Mohs”) Surgeon. He is the only physician west of I-15 who has done an extra year of fellowship training in this technique. The training includes surgery, pathology and aesthetic reconstruction after the cancer is removed.