Although it’s associated with summer fun in the sun, skin cancer remains a risk even in winter. Though people are more bundled up and exposing less skin to the elements—sunlight included—vacationers go to warm travel destinations, or hit the slopes where the glare from the snow contributes to skin cancer risk, and don’t necessarily think about it at all. However, just because the temperature is low doesn’t mean UV exposure isn’t high. Skin cancer comes from sunlight, not from warmth, and is a year-round threat, and all the worse when people don’t expect it.
In fact, skin cancer is one of the most common varieties of cancer to affect people in the United States, with more new cases per year than breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancers combined. The good news is it’s also among the most survivable. Because skin cancer happens on the skin, it is one of the easiest forms of cancer to catch early, when it is most easily treated. Skin cancer generally appears as an asymmetrical mole or other marking with a ragged border. The mole will be multicolored and more than a quarter inch in diameter, with the size and shape changing over time.
One in five people will develop skin cancer, but there are some simple preventative measures that can keep someone safe. Staying in the shade and avoiding sunburn as as important in winter as in summer. Sunblock on exposed areas, what few there are, may be needed even in the wintertime. The very beginning and very end of the season, when the weather may be warm enough to allow people to dress slightly lighter, are times to be especially wary.
Skiers and snowboarders should remember that UV exposure rises as much as five percent every thousand feet above sea level. Sunscreen is as important on the slopes as at the beach. Possibly more, since snow and wind can compromise its effectiveness, meaning frequent re-application is needed. As in the summer, the danger zone is in the hours from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M., possible a little earlier. Sunglasses, too, as as important in winter as in summer sun, shielding the eyes from glare.