This article actually details how South Dakota residents are really bad at wearing sunscreen. Considering that many S. Dakota residents work outside (i.e. farming, ranching, etc) the risk for skin cancer is quite high. The article's title implies that South Dakotans are actually good at protecting themselves with sunscreen, "...sun lovers smarter than most," but the author never provides data of sunscreen usage in other states for a true comparison...so I did!
The American Cancer Society has some really great information on this from 2008 (source). Here are states that have counts below South Dakota:
State -- New cases of melanoma (skin cancer)
South Dakota -- 160
Wyoming -- 120
North Dakota -- 110
Alabama -- 80
Dist. of Columbia -- 50
Now, the numbers above are frequencies (just counts) and they can also be misleading unless you compare the rates of new cases. Rates are more representative of the situation since it takes into account population size. Rates are important to understand what's going on.
So, I took into account each state's population and calculated the rates of new cases below:
State -- Rates of new cases of melanoma (count/total pop) x 100
South Dakota --0.21%
Wyoming -- 0.02%
North Dakota --0.02%
Alabama -- 0.002%
Dist. of Columbia --0.01%
Now -- looking at these rates, we have a completely different picture than we did with just the count data. According to the rates, South Dakota is the WORST at preventing new rates of skin cancer. This is discordant with what the article proclaims.
- South Dakota needs to be better at applying sunscreen as a state.
- Be careful of data without denominators and
- Beware of misleading titles (like the one in this article).
- Always look for data to support the author's claims.
- Finally-- do a quick google images search of 'skin cancer' or 'melanoma' and you will see just how ugly it really is. Eghh. Apply sunscreen liberally!
If you want to know the skin cancer rates in your state or do your own fact checking, check out the American Cancer Society's 2008 data: http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/2008CAFFfinalsecured.pdf