Report Shows Skin Cancer Epidemic in Iowa

Mar 13, 2015

The 2015 Cancer in Iowa report released today shows a drastic jump in the number of cases of skin cancer in the state.

Director of the University of Iowa’s Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center Dr. George Weiner describes the increase in skin melanoma as an epidemic. Rates are especially high in women and girls who use tanning beds.   

In girls who tan versus those who don't, melanoma skin cancer is 70 times common. - Dr. George Weiner

“Older men more commonly get melanoma skin cancers," Weiner says. "But in girls who tan versus those who don’t, melanoma skin cancer is 70 times more common."

This year an estimated 6,400 Iowans will die from cancer. That's 18 times the number of deaths caused by auto fatalities.

Lung cancer is the most prevalent cancer in Iowa. This is notable in a state that leads the nation in the presence of radon, a radioactive gas that seeps into the home through the basement.

“The risk of non-smokers getting cancer is increased by exposure to radon,” Weiner says. “It’s a naturally occurring gas. I first learned about radon four years ago and had my own house tested. We had a test done and had it mitigated. We had a small fan put in the basement and sealed up the sump pump area, and that has dramatically dropped the amount of radon in my home.”

A bill has been introduced this year in the Iowa legislature to mandate that schools test for radon gas. Radon testing is currently voluntary.

The State Health Registry of Iowa, based at the University of Iowa, has been recording the occurrence of cancer since 1973.