That Winter Sun
By Robert Preidt, HealthScoutNews
to heed warnings about getting too close to the sun, and paid
dearly for it when the wax in his wings melted.
a skier or snowboarder hitting the slopes this winter, don't make
the same mistake.
only wax you use is on your skis. However, the higher up the mountain
you go, the more you're exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) light.
Experts say you must use sunscreen and take other measures to
protect yourself, or you could increase your risk for skin cancer.
increase in altitude, you increase your ultraviolet light exposure,"
cautions Dr. Susan Boiko, partner physician with Southern California
Permanente Medical Group in San Diego.
filters 4 percent fewer UV rays for every 1,000 feet above sea
level. Many ski resorts in North America and Europe are at or
above 5,000 feet, a point where there is 20 percent more UV radiation
than there is at sea level. Add to that the fact that the increase
in UV rays at high altitudes becomes even more dangerous as it
reflects off the snow.
top of the mountain, for someone who easily burns, it would only
take eight or 10 minutes to get a burn," Boiko says.
threat to enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders, who often spend
six or seven hours a day on the slopes.
people feel that because the weather is cold, they won't get any
damage from the sun. They associate danger with the sun from warmer
weather -- sunbathing and skimpy bathing suits," says Boiko.
don't think you're safe just because it's cloudy. The UV light
still filters through, says dermatology expert Noreen Nicol, chief
clinical officer at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center
the sun is intense, people tend to think about their sunscreen
because they can actively feel the burn and the heat. But on cloudy
days on the ski slopes, I think people are probably less aware,
until the end of the day has come along and, all of sudden, they
realize they have got a great deal of exposure and have a substantial
burn," Nicol says.
of your body is covered with warm clothing, your face and other
parts of your head are vulnerable to sun damage. Boiko recommends
you use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. In cold conditions, she
suggests a sunscreen that is greasy or waxy and will stick to
your skin. Reapply the sunscreen every two hours.
you should also apply the sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you
actually strap on the boards.
If you can
tolerate the feel and look, you may consider using physical blocker
sunscreens, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, Nicol says.
ALthough they may feel pasty and detract from your heroic ski
visage, they do provide better protection than the more common
Wear a hat,
and make sure sunscreen, scarf or other clothing protects the
back of your neck.
that offer the highest UV protection for your eyes.
want to pick a style that is as large as is comfortable for your
face, because the more area that's covered the better," Boiko
not only blocking the light from getting in your eyes and causing
cataracts, but you're blocking it from your eyelids and the sides
of your cheeks. These are common locations for skin cancer,"
Last but not
least, don't forget sunscreen protection and good goggles for
your children, Boiko adds.
is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Last year,
the American Cancer Society says, more than 1 million new cases
would be diagnosed, and about 9,800 people would die from skin
To learn more
about skin cancer, go to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Check out the
American Cancer Society for information about
nonmelanoma skin cancers.
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