Compared to many other states, New Jersey's prevalence of the most deadly form of skin cancer isn't so bad. But melanoma still affected more than 11,000 new people in the state from 2011 through 2015, and took 1,224 lives.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show New Jersey's rate of melanoma — 22 cases per 100,000 people — lands in the middle of the pack nationwide. The rate goes as high as 38.3 in Utah, and as low as 13.2 in Texas.

Melanoma, the third-most common skin cancer, is the deadliest. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, while much more common, are considered highly curable.

"Unfortunately, some people do let things go. They see a strange spot and they don't think it can be cancer," said Dr. Carolyn Heckman, researcher at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

According to Heckman, it's assumed that exposure to UV rays is a contributor to most skin cancer cases. But other risk factors, such as family history, are at play. Individuals with certain physical characteristics, such as blue or green eyes, or blond or red hair, are considered to be at greater risk, according to the CDC.

Comparing skin cancer rates to online searches related to awareness and prevention of skin cancer, an analysis released by Advanced Dermatology found New Jerseyans are "extremely concerned" about the malady. Released in time for Skin Cancer Awareness and Melanoma Awareness month, the analysis found about one-fifth of the states are "dangerously unconcerned" given their population's risk.

Heckman said a heightened level of concern in New Jersey suggested by the analysis could be linked to the state's location. The Jersey Shore serves as an ideal spot for folks to expose most of their bodies to the sun during the summer, and residents may be educated on the risks involved.

In 2013, New Jersey banned individuals under the age of 17 from using indoor tanning beds, unless a parent or guardian offers consent.

"A lot of skin cancers are found by people themselves, or their partners," Heckman said.

While visiting a dermatologist is the best route for spotting skin cancer, Heckman advises folks to know their ABCDEs when examining marks on their own bodies.

  • A (Asymmetry): One half does not match the other half
  • B (Border): Uneven borders
  • C (Color): Multiple colors can be seen
  • D (Diameter): Moles larger than the size of a pencil eraser
  • E (Evolution): Change in size, shape, color, etc.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.