MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota is near the top of a new national list, and not for a good reason.
The state ranks number three in new cases of melanoma, an aggressive and sometimes deadly skin cancer.
From the lakes, to the pool, to the baseball fields, Minnesotans go all out when the temps go up.
“I spent my summers growing up riding my bike, going to the beach, getting multiple sunburns to be totally honest,” said Eagan resident Jamie Bell.
A rosy-cheeked image proves the lifelong Minnesotan had fun in the sun, but the sun also caused some serious pain.
“I never thought that at 40 years old, I would have had skin cancer three times already. And I never would have really expected that I’d be dealing with melanoma being a lifetime chronic illness, which is what it will probably be for me,” Bell said.
She had surgery on her third melanoma just last week.
“It’s scary to be faced with a potentially life-threatening illness at such a young age,” Bell said.
Minnesota and other northern states have more melanoma cases than southern states.
“It is ironic that because we have far less sun that we have that much skin cancer, but it’s just that our skin is not equipped for it,” said Dr. Jamie Davis.
She says it’s because so many Minnesotans have Norwegian or Celtic heritage — skin tones that lack melanin. And because we are bundled up so much of the year, skin is less conditioned and burns easily when summer finally arrives.
“The burn is dangerous. Even one burn bumps your risk for melanoma and other skin cancers,” Davis said.
She says sun screen and sun shirts are key, because damage is much more than skin deep.
“I don’t ever want anyone to go through what I’ve gone through,” Bell said.
Her cancer is stage one, and she caught it early by getting regular skin checks.
Dr. Davis says it’s important for people of all skin tones to wear protection, but especially those who are fair skinned. She says she sees melanoma on men mostly on their backs, and on the legs of women, so get checked.
Wisconsin ranks 21st on the list of new melanoma cases.