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Melanoma rates increase more than 30 percent in Minn.

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The Minnesota Department of Health says melanoma continues to be one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in the state.

From 2005 to 2009, melanoma rates increased by 35 percent in males and 38 percent in females, according to a MDH news release.

In 2009, about 1,460 Minnesotans were diagnosed with invasive melanoma of the skin, nearly three times more than in 1988--the year the state began keeping track of cancers diagnosed in Minnesota residents.

State health officials say the increase in the potentially deadly cancer is likely the result of more exposure to ultraviolet light, both natural and from tanning beds, and better detection.

Melanoma rates for non-hispanic white women ages 20-49 years--a group more likely to use indoor tanning--have doubled since 1995.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger continues to dispel the myth about the "base tan." Before going on vacation in warmer destinations, some think going to a tanning salon better prepares the skin for sun exposure.

"Sunburns and exposure to the sun or tanning booths increase one's risk of cancer. And a base tan does not help. A base tan is just more exposure that adds to your risk of developing skin cancer," Ehlinger says.

Fair-skinned Minnesotans aren't the only population seeing an increase in melanoma. Ehlinger tells MPR the numbers mirror a national trend dating back to the mid 70s.

To reduce the risk of skin cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a few recommendations including avoiding indoor tanning altogether, wearing protective clothing in the sun and using sunscreen.

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