Winter “Sun” Dangers don’t matter too much, do they? Only if you forget that those dangers are out there! Let’s check out the dangers.
Have you always thought that when the temperature drops you can quit trying to protect your skin? Even when there are several days between the sunny times, don’t drop your defenses. It is time to become aware of the dangers of winter sun.
Even in the winter, and yes, even on cloudy days, it’s important to protect your skin. Protect yourself from cancer and aging. Unfortunately, skin cancer doesn’t take a vacation because it is winter!
Those harmful ultraviolet or UV rays are present year-round. Cold weather sun rays can filter through dark cloud coverage to reach your skin. If you are an avid outdoors person, there are not many days when it is safe to be outside without some kind of skin protection.
Does your home have lots of windows? Even in the winter, you get damaging sun rays by reflection.
“When you’re outside, any uncovered areas of your body are exposed to UV rays,” says Susan Chon, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at MD Anderson.
The proof is evident that the primary cause of skin cancer is too much sun exposure. Wintertime sun as well.
What Is Your Skin Cancer Risk?
Did you know that more than two million Americans are diagnosed each year with skin cancer? This figure is according to the American Cancer Society. So, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States!
Now for the good news, this same skin cancer is one of the easiest to prevent. That is including the most serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.
I have had the other more common types of skin cancer, basal cell, and squamous cell carcinomas. These are treatable when found early. Melanoma is treatable when found early as well. This form is under the skin, so less noticeable. It is growing in the deeper layers of our skin, and we are unaware it is there.
“So, it’s important to protect your skin year-round to lower your chances of getting skin cancer,” Chon reminds us.
Winter Sun’s Rays And Skin Cancer Risks
Wintertime finds the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere pointing away from the sun. This tilt allows the atmosphere to block some of the sun’s harmful UV rays. And yes, the temperatures drop as the sun’s rays are further away. The winter sun can still be dangerous.
But don’t let these seasonal effects make you feel safe. When you’re outside, during daylight hours, you’re still at risk for sun damage.
In my part of central Texas, the amount of UV radiation from the sun doesn’t drop a lot during the winter months. Our sun can be strong regardless of the season or temperature.
This fact has made the shift to sun blocking clothing a natural thing to do. When it is windy as well as cool, our denim long sleeve loose-fitting shirts get lots of wear.
Because we had some time we were not as careful about sun blocking, our kids have had to rethink some of the shirts for the little ones. However, covering up is an easy way to make sure they stay protected all day.
We are having trouble with scheduling times to be out, and get caught during high sun time. Do you remember the high-risk times for winter are 11 AM to 3 PM?
Remember High Altitude Makes a Difference
When you are at a higher altitude that means a higher risk.
At some point during winter, you’re probably ready to get out on those ski slopes. Remember the warnings, when you are in high altitudes, those UV rays will be even more intense.
Plus, the risk for sunburn is higher because the thinner ozone layer doesn’t block as many of the sun’s harmful rays as it did when you were a kid.
To increase the risk factor for our skin and too much exposure, snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays. This means the rays get you as they are coming down, and as they are reflecting off snow or buildings or water.
Sun Blocking Clothing For Winter Vacations
A day on the slopes can do as much damage to your skin as a day on the beach. Often in our eagerness to get out and enjoy the day we neglect to think through protection for our skin. You are only there for a short time, and too much worry seems to be taking the fun out of the time you have.
Take the time to use sunscreen on your face, protecting your nose, ears, cheeks, and forehead. The rest of you should be covered to stay warm while skiing.
Your face will need to have sunscreen reapplied every 2 hours. This is important as your head is what the sun gets to first. When busy in winter sports a proper sun blocking hat isn’t practical. You will need to apply and reapply your sunscreen or sunblock lotion.
Just because you’re on a winter vacation, you can’t ignore sun safety. A bad sunburn can occur in the winter. It only takes one blistering sunburn to increases your skin cancer risk. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma. It is important to wear sunscreen even on your winter vacations.
Yes You Can Get A Sunburn In Winter
Protect your skin on cloudy days, use your sunscreen and wear sun blocking clothing. Having several things that you can do will build a good layer of protection from the sun for your skin. With the innovations in ski wear and other outdoor sports clothing will make having what you need easier.
Having a good lip balm is very important, and often overlooked. Skin cancer of the lips is one of the high risk areas, as are your ears, and nose. Those are 3 places most often developing a skin cancer. Pay attention and take care of your skin. You don’t want to lose part of your winter vacation to having first aid for a winter sunburn.
Take breaks in a shaded area, or completely out of the sun in a building. Give your skin a break so it can stay healthy. Now lets think a bit about some of the myths of winter time sun dangers. These are wrong, and outright dangerous.
You Won’t Get A Sunburn In The Winter When It Is Cloudy
Let’t take a moment to remind ourselves about how this question is answered. Do I even need sunscreen, it is cloudy?
Yes you can get a sunburn in the winter. Yes, even when it is cloudy outside.
Sun damage is entirely possible. Actually sun damage is as possibel on windy, cloudy and cool days as it is on hot sunny days.
So you will need sunscreen as well as sun blocking clothing. Sun damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Cooler temperatures outside won’t block the sun.
A cool or overcast day in the wintertime can have similar UV levels to a warm, sunny summertime day. In fact, UVA radiation is higher in the winter months.
UVB radiation decreases during the winter months but dangerous UVA radiation is still in full force.
Both UVA and UVB contribute to skin cancer.
However, UVA is thought to play a larger part in premature aging. Who wants wrinkly, age spots? What about dried out skin that has the look of old leather. Not me!
My Nose Dosen’t Sunburn, That is Windburn.
When it’s windy outside and you get a red face? It’s likely to be sunburn.
While people often confuse sunburn with windburn the risk of a windburn is not like the risk of sunburn. Just remember that our noses are often the first to catch the sun and appear rosy red.
Treat your nose gently. Better yet, give your nose a good coating of sun block lotion and don’t let it sun burn.
While Skiing There Is Little Danger Of Sunburn
This statement is false. UV rays are more dangerous in higher altitudes. They are more intense and the air is thinner.
A day on the slopes can do as much damage as a day at the beach. Remember, fresh snow reflects about 80% of the UV radiation that the rays create.
Higher altitudes mean more exposure. For every thousand feet you climb in altitude, your UV exposuregoes up by 4%.
So when you are donning your snowsuit, don’t forget to apply SPF 30 or higher lip balm. Your sunscreen of SPF of at least 30 broad spectrun on your face and any other exposed areas.
Don’t walk out without your wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun damage and glare. This is especially important for all those skiers and snowboarders. Don’y be guilt of thinking that wearing a snowcap will suffice. You need your sunglasses.
Prevent Snow Blindness.
Snow blindness, or photokeratitis, is a painful condition caused by the UV reflection on sand, ice, water or snow.
As you can imagine, the latter three are very prevalent in winter.
Similar to sunburn, you won’t notice sunow blindness until after the damage occurs. You will have a very high sensitivity to light, pain, with decreased vision, headache and tearing.
In some instances there has been permanent vision damage after a snow blindness incident. This can be prevented with polarized wraparound sunglasses and headwear. You must protect yourself.
I Won’t Sunburn. I Already Have A Tan
So many people think that having a tan before they go on vacation will keep them from experiencing a sunburn on vacation. Winter or summer this is a risk. You can sunburn even if you have a tan.
Any suntan or unprotected sun exposure is sun damage. There is no such thing as a safe tan. A suntan and sunburn are your body’s response to cellular DNA damage from UV radiation.
Sun damage is cumulative. Just one sunburn encreases your lifetime risk of Melanoma.
The worst areas for skin cancer are those that are exposed to the sun day in and day out, throughout the year and not just in the summer. Think about the left side of your face that’s exposed while driving, your ears, or the tip of your nose.
So what’s a responsible person to do?
Let’s start with your face. Wearing a winter sun hat with a brim will dramatically reduce the sunlight striking your face coming directly from the sun.
Many winter sun hats also have the advantage of being rainproof or made of wool felt. Remember you shuld wear lip balm with SPF, and polarized sunglasses (wraparound when hitting the slopes).
There are also a lot of different options for your use in today’s world. You will find nose shields, sun gaiters, full facial sun hood, and neck protectors to keep the different parts of your skin protected.
Sami’s Tale on Winter Sun Dangers
Having lived the all my life in the sunny parts of this wonderful world, I am grateful to be finding out more ways to stay safe. To keep my skin safe. I have come to appreciate this body sack that we have been issued to help keep all our parts together, operating in some sort of reasonable fashion.
I like understanding more about how to help my body continue to function. There are so many way we can help ourselves avoid skin cancer. As I am learning about autoimmune disease, Lupus to be more exact, the more it seems we have to find out about how our skin protects us.
We can make our family safer by helping them remember to keep themselves safe. Allowing my grandson to get a sunburn in the winter is another thing to avoid.
He is getting old enough that our caution is beginning to show in his actions and awareness. His concern about his buddies on his ball team. They can learn to help each other.
You can help your family become more aware as well. Each time we read about the ways to stay safe we are building our information base. Stay alert to s