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  • What is melanoma?
    • Melanoma is a type of cancer in skin cells that produce the pigment called melanin. It is the most dangerous but least common type of skin cancer. If this type of skin cancer is found early, it can be cured. However, melanoma can spread through the body much more quickly than other types of skin cancers and can cause death.

  • How is melanoma related to the environment?
    • Between 65 and 90% of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. Small amounts of UV radiation are good for people and needed for the body to produce vitamin D. But, too much exposure to the sun’s rays can cause skin damage such as sunburn, wrinkles, and skin cancers. Peoples’ behavior in the sun is believed to be a major reason for the rise in skin cancer rates, including melanoma, over the last few decades.

  • What are the risk factors for melanoma?
    • Most melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Everyone is exposed to UV radiation from the sun. However, a growing number of people are being overexposed to sun rays and other sources of artificial UV radiation used in industry and other settings such as indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp). When UV rays reach the skin's inner layer, the skin makes more melanin, the pigment that colors the skin. It moves toward the outer layers of the skin which causes a tan. A tan does not indicate good health. A tan is a response to injury, because skin cells are signaling that they have been hurt by UV rays by producing more pigment. People burn or tan depending on:
      * their skin type,
      * the time of year, and
      * how long they are exposed to UV rays.

  • What are the risk factors for melanoma?
    • You may be able to reduce your risk for many types of liver cancer by avoiding known risk factors for the disease, such as:
      * avoiding becoming infected and treating hepatitis infections,
      * limiting alcohol and tobacco use,
      * limiting exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

      People with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop melanoma, such as:
      * a lighter natural skin color,
      * family history of skin cancer,
      * a personal history of skin cancer,
      * exposure to the sun through work and play,
      * a history of sunburns early in life,
      * a history of indoor tanning,
      * skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun,
      * blue or green eyes,
      * blond or red hair, and
      * certain types and a large number of moles.

  • How do you prevent melanoma?
    • Protecting yourself from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow. Indoor tanning also exposes people to UV radiation. You may be able to reduce your risk of melanoma by following these steps:

      * seek shade, especially during midday hours,
      * wear clothing to protect exposed skin,
      * wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck,
      * wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible,
      * use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection, and
      * avoid indoor tanning.

Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

Melanoma Cancer Data
Access the melanoma cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • counts for each cancer type
  • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
  • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
  • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
  • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking