Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A person's race and location play a big role in whether they will survive skin cancer, a new study suggests.
As odd as it may seem, having a lot of doctors in state lowers a person's the chances of surviving melanoma cancer, according to a new study published in Tuesday in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
"This study is a bird's eye view of melanoma survival in the United States," Zachary Hopkins, a resident in Internal Medicine at the University of Utah and study first author, said in a news release. "We are interested in finding disparities in state health care systems to target specific states to improve care for people."
Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States and the number of reported cases is rising. But there's hope. Skin cancer survival rates are also increasing -- in certain parts of the country, at least.
The researchers found Oregon, Washington, Utah, Minnesota, Vermont and New Hampshire have disproportionately higher survival rates than Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana, Illinois and Nevada.
"Finding a significant relationship between more physicians and mortality was certainly surprising," Hopkins said. "We believe the sickest patients go to larger facilities with more doctors, which may also be more likely to report disease."
Since having lighter skin makes a person more susceptible to skin cancer, the findings also show that white people are at the greatest risk of developing the condition.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that close to five million people are treated for skin cancer annually, and melanoma is responsible for about 9,000 deaths each year.
"The analysis is telling us that two people with similar melanomas could have very different outcomes based on where they live and the care they receive," Aaron Secrest, an assistant professor in the Departments of Dermatology and Population Health Sciences at the University of Utah and study senior author. "We can use this information to improve care to help more people survive."