Sunscreen still 'applies' in winter months


Dana-Farber experts offer tips to stay sun safe and reduce skin cancer risk on winter vacation

Stephen Hodi, MDStephen Hodi, MD 

Sunscreen shouldn't be packed away just because it's winter. Your skin can be exposed to harmful rays all year long. So before you hit the slopes, build a snowman, or head off to a tropical beach, take time to protect yourself, say skin cancer experts at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

According to the American Cancer Society, snow, ice and water can all reflect the ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn. Sunburn in turn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Some experts say winter sports enthusiasts can face just as much risk of getting sunburn as summer sunbathers.

The same goes if a little ‘R and R' means heading south. It's important to lather on plenty of sunscreen before hitting the beach – even if it's only for a few days. After being bundled up, bathing suit tan lines can quickly become burn lines – which can increase the risk of skin cancer.

"It is important that people protect themselves from the sun and make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of skin cancer and melanoma to greatly reduce their risk of developing these preventable but dangerous diseases," explains Stephen Hodi, MD, clinical director of the Melanoma Program at Dana-Farber.

Other tips for protection:

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply it often and don't forget your neck, ears, and hands.
  • Apply lip balm with sunscreen and use makeup with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Use eye protection, especially for skiing. Look for wrap-around sun glasses and ski goggles with UV protection.
  • If you're heading somewhere tropical, wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to the sun, especially during peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest.
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