It's no secret that protecting yourself from the sun can make you look years younger, not to mention lower your risk of skin cancer. But as it turns out, certain cities are savvier about UV protection than others. Which locations are the most and least UV aware? It's not just a matter of getting the most sunshine (sun-drenched locales like Miami and Tucson didn't make the list). Read on as we reveal the 10 sun-smartest and -dumbest cities in America.

In the Dark About the Sun

To find out which cities are smart about their skin—and which are not—we looked at the occurrence of skin cancers (according to the National Cancer Institute), places with the most tanning salons and regulations (according to the National Tanning Training Institute), and residents' attitudes and knowledge of skin care (using data from the American Academy of Dermatology)

  1. Chicago.

    In addition to having one of the highest death rates from melanoma in the country, Chicago and the rest of Illinois are home to more than their fair share of tanning salons. In addition, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) found that Chicagoans don't know much about what's good for their skin and what's not, with a majority of residents incorrectly believing that getting a base tan and tanning indoors are wise.

  2. Detroit.

    When it comes to protecting their skin, Detroit residents have a lot to learn. Michigan has more tanning beds than most other states, and it doesn't bother regulating the salons. What's more, many people in Detroit say they don't need to worry about skin cancer, according to the AAD. Nevertheless, the Motor City has some of the highest rates of melanoma in the country.

  3. St. Louis.

    A higher percentage of people die from melanoma in Missouri than anywhere else in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. And that number is on the rise. Even more frightening, the AAD reports that nearly two-thirds of the St. Louis population has never been screened for skin cancer.

  4. Seattle.

    Given the city's notorious rainfall, it's understandable that residents of Seattle think they don't have to worry about protecting themselves from the sun, as the AAD learned during its survey. Deaths, per capita, from melanoma in Washington State are second only to Missouri, and the state's government officials don't bother regulating the tanning industry.

  5. Pittsburgh.

    High rates of skin cancer and unregulated tanning salons bring this rust belt city's skin scores down. But there's good news for residents who are at risk of developing melanoma: The University of Pittsburgh offers free skin cancer screenings once a month.

Seeing the Light—and Putting on Sunscreen


  1. Washington, D.C.

    Our nation's capital is also the capital of sun-care smarts, boasting low rates of melanoma. Considering that the District of Columbia is home to the Department of Health and Human Services and many medical organizations, it's no surprise that residents here are so knowledgeable about protecting themselves from the sun, according to the AAD.

  2. New York City.

    All parts of the city fall below the national average for rates of melanoma, and in many boroughs, the rates continue to fall even further. For those who are diagnosed or wanted to be screened, there are thousands of dermatologists to choose from and multiple locations that offer free screenings at various times throughout the year.

  3. Los Angeles.

    Despite a reputation for being full of blonde, thin, tan people, L.A. scores surprisingly well when it comes to sun smarts, scoring in the top five of all cities surveyed by the AAD. Perhaps all those tans are airbrushed.

  4. San Francisco.

    California must be doing something right for two of its biggest cities to make the top five. Their skin cancer rates are low and falling, and the state has also new regulations in place for tanning salons. In fact, most of the tanning salons in the city don't focus on the UV beds, but on the airbrush technology.

  5. Salt Lake City.

    Perhaps part of the reason Salt Lake City residents don't have high death rates due to skin cancer is that many of them don't think people need to be tan to look healthy, according to the AAD. Residents should still be cautious, however; though deaths due to melanoma remain low, overall incidents of skin cancer are rising.