Melanoma By The State: Minnesota



Minnesota tops Midwest in melanoma incidences

Minnesota has the third highest incidence rate of melanoma in the United States, tied with New Hampshire and behind only Utah and Vermont, according to the latest statistics from the CDC, and the state can expect to diagnose another 1,420 cases in 2018 alone.  Minnesota is among a handful of states that have experienced an increase in both melanoma incidence and death rates over the past decade, according to a study in JAMA Dermatology.

Why is Minnesota experiencing such a high incidence rate of melanoma?

Explanations range from skin tone to indoor tanning device use. Nearly 85 percent of the state’s residents are white, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates.  This light-skinned population enjoys an active outdoor lifestyle and includes a large farming community, all of which translates to a greater risk for melanoma.  Many of Minnesota’s older residents, particularly males, were involved in farming or other outdoor activities that exposed them repeatedly to the sun’s UV radiation—exposure that began decades ago when there was less awareness of protecting oneself from the sun.

Another explanation for the high incidence of melanoma is the frequent use of tanning devices by Minnesota teens.  Among students surveyed in 2013, tanning was common among white females in 11th grade: Nearly 34% had used a tanning device in 2012. The risk of skin cancer from indoor tanning increases with each tanning session and is highest among those who start tanning at a younger age, according to the US Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer (2014).

Although the rate of melanoma increases with age, it is one of the most commonly-diagnosed cancers among Minnesotans ages 20-49, a statistic that is likely related to tanning device use by teens and young adults. Among adults aged 20-49, females are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than males of the same age—not surprising, given that young women use indoor tanning devices at a higher rate than young men do.

Michelle Strangis, a Minnesota Department of Health cancer specialist, in an interview with the Minnesota Post, noted she is hopeful that the state’s melanoma incidence rate will decrease in the years to come as more Minnesotans take steps to protect themselves from UV rays.  “The thing I’m really hoping that will happen is that we will have a different norm around beautiful skin,” she said. “We are still coming up against the idea that tan is beautiful rather than that tan is damaged skin.”

Prevention and Awareness Efforts

Since July 1, 2014, minors under the age of 18 in Minnesota have been prohibited from using tanning devices. Since the new law went into effect, tanning device use has dropped among Minnesota teens. A dramatic decline was seen in 11th grade white (non-Hispanic) girls, where the percentage of use dropped from 33.7% to 8.8%. In addition to the law, educational efforts targeted middle and high school students. The Minnesota Department of Health sponsored a video contest with $2500 in cash prizes for teens to spread the word that tanning is risky.

Reducing exposure to  ultraviolet light is an objective of Cancer Plan Minnesota 2025 and is supported by members of the Minnesota Cancer Alliance. Cancer Plan Minnesota is a framework for action that invites everyone to get involved in reducing the burden of cancer and promoting health equity.

This summer, the Minnesota Department of Health’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (CCCP) launched a social media campaign entitled, “Young But Not Invincible,” that shares the story of Emma, a young woman diagnosed with melanoma. The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness about the risks of indoor tanning and ultraviolet light exposure. You can follow along with @mnhealth on FacebookInstagram and Twitter or by searching #emmasmelanomastory.

Minnesota Melanoma Resources 

Minnesota Department of Health Comprehensive Cancer Control Program:

Emma’s Story (video)

Cancer Plan Minnesota 2025: Objective 16 – Reduce exposure to ultraviolet light

Minnesota Cancer Alliance:

MDH: Teens, Indoor Tanning & Melanoma:

MDH Social Media Accounts:




To learn more about skin cancer and melanoma in Minnesota please visit:

MDH Melanoma Data Portal:

MDH Melanoma Cancer Query:

Melanoma County Map: