Skiers at Risk for Skin Cancer

Eileen Bailey Health Guide November 15, 2012
  • Bathing suits, beach towels and sunscreen have all been put away and with winter quickly approaching, many people are taking out the winter items and heading to the ski slopes. But researchers have found that the risk of sunburn and sun damage are just as high on the ski slopes as on the beach. Dr. Mark Birch-Machin, a skin cancer expert, warns that “high altitude winter sports can expose the skin to very high levels of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.” [1]

     

    Besides the high altitudes, skiers need to remember that snow, just like sand and water, relects up to 85 percent of the sun’s rays, giving you exposure to UV rays from above and below. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UV radiation increases 4 to 5 percent with every 1,000 feet above sea level. For those skiing on slopes that are 9,000 or 10,000 feet above sea level, the UV radiation could be 35 to 45 percent more intense than at the beach. [2] It isn’t unusual for skiers to be out on the slopes all day - exposing themselves to UV rays for between 6 and 8 hours.

     

    Winter Sun Protection

     

    One of the dangers is that, when the weather is cold and the sun doesn’t seem as strong, we feel we are safe from the dangers of UV rays. But most dermatologists and experts agree that sun protection should be year round.

     

    The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests the following for winter sun protection:

     

    • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which protects from UVA and UVB rays) of 30 SPF or higher.
    • Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before getting on the slopes. Use sunscreen liberally - about a teaspoon for your face alone.
    • Reapply sunscreen about every 2 hours and more often if you are sweating. (Take time when on a chairlift to reapply your sunscreen)
    • Use a lipbalm with an SPF of at least 15.
    • Look for sunscreen with moisturizers as winter weather can dry out your skin.
    • Wear long-sleeve shirts, even on warm days, keep your head covered and make sure you use the sunscreen on those often missed places: ears, around the eyes, under your chin, on your hands and your scalp.
    • Use ski-masks to protect your face from the sun
    • Use goggles or sunglasses with UV protection of 99 percent or higher, preferably with wrap-around frames to protect not only your eyes but the area around your eyes.

     

    References:

     

    [2] “Essential Sun Safety Information for Skiers & Snowboarders,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Skin Cancer Foundation

     

    [1] “Skin Cancer Peril on Ski Slopes,” Date Unknown, James Chapman, Daily Mail