Young woman applying sunscreen on her face in snowy mountains in winter.

Melanoma Awareness: Winter Sun Exposure

When people think about skin cancer, they often don’t realize that there are different varieties, with melanoma being among the most serious. The most important step for preventing any type of skin cancer is year-round protection against harmful UV rays. While many people believe the sun is harmless in the winter, nothing could be further from the truth. The winter months do show a decrease in UV radiation levels, but that doesn’t mean they are nonexistent. A protective skincare routine is essential even when skies are overcast.


UV Rays Are Still Harmful

It is no secret that UV rays are instrumental in the development of skin cancers like melanoma. However, there is a common misconception that, when the temperatures drop, UV exposure is reduced to the point of being harmless. While that is somewhat true in the northern hemisphere, the difference in UV levels during winter is not enough to entirely mitigate the need for sun protection or prevent the risk of skin cancer.


Skiing Can Present Greater Risk

Skiing is a favorite among outdoor winter activities. However, when combined with the misconception that the winter sun presents minimal risk, people end up unintentionally increasing the danger or possible harm. Higher altitudes offer greater UV exposure, especially when you consider that snow can reflect up to 80% of the sun’s rays. That means the slopes are one place where you should pay particular attention to your skin protection regimen.


Clouds Don’t Change Risk

Another misconception about melanoma risk is that cloudy days decrease or even eliminate possible UV exposure. Unfortunately, this is also not true. UV rays still penetrate through to the Earth’s surface, and some research suggests cloud coverage can lead to more dangerous and focused radiation.


Sunscreen Is Your Best Friend

The bottom line is that sun safety is a year-round obligation, and sunscreen is your best friend. SPF 30 sunscreen provides significant protection against harmful UV rays. To get the best protection and coverage, apply a generous amount to all exposed areas at least 30 minutes before going outside Reapply every two hours or less, depending on activity and sweat.


Additional Protection Against UV Rays

Sunscreen is not the only way to protect yourself from melanoma. You can also use a special lip balm with SPF 30 protection, and cover as much of your body as possible with layers of clothing, including a hat, gloves and long-sleeved jacket. Wraparound goggles with UV protection are another great protective piece of gear. Last, consider finding shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., since that is when UV rays present the most risk.


Routine Skin Checks Matter

Even if you do everything right, there is always a chance that skin cancer will develop, especially if you are at higher risk already. The best protection is to perform routine self-exam because the best protection is early detection.


If you are at a higher risk for developing melanoma, consider speaking with a dermatologist. Staffing some of the leading skin cancer experts in New Jersey, Windsor Dermatology can help. Call and schedule an appointment.