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Skin cancer rates on the rise in Maine while access to care is stretched thin

Maine is the seventh highest in rates of new skin cancer cases in the United States. Other New England states show worse ratings; New Hampshire is number two and Vermont is number three. However, Massachusetts sits low at number 44.

PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine)-- While Maine summers are short, those who live here make the most of them. We spend time on the beach, we camp, we bike ride, we do anything and everything outdoors int he sunshine. But how well protected are we when it comes to our skin? You might be surprised to know, Maine is on of the top 10 states leading the rates of new skin cancers, according to the Centers For Disease Control.

Maine is the seventh highest in rates of new skin cancer cases in the United States. Other New England states show worse ratings; New Hampshire is number two and Vermont is number three. However, Massachusetts sits low at number 44.

Intermed Dermatologist and Moh Surgeon Dr. Kenneth Galeckas gave some insight into what might be influencing this. First of all, Northern News England is predominantly Caucasian, the demographic most at risk of skin cancer according to the CDC. In fact, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are 94% Caucasian-based on average, according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Maine's population is also aging, with more than 19% of residents 60 years of age and older. Dr. Galeckas says most of his patients are 60 years or older and that's because many of them did not wear sunscreen most of their lives and spent a lot of time in the sun in their years.

For a state with such a high rate of new skin cancers, access to dermatologists is lean. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 39 dermatologists serve Maine's more than 1.3 million people. Most of those practices are based in Southern Maine, and the backlog forces the wait time to see a doctor to about four to six months. Dr. Galeckas said most medical students land where they do their residency or where they're from originally. Maine does not have a dermatology residency and for a medical student who graduates with a mountain of debt, an income tax free state can be a more appealing to work in.

Galeckas recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 spf. He adds that most skin cancers are curable if they're caught early.