As skiers head off to the slopes, many newcomers to the sport forget about the dangers of the sun in the mountains. At this time of year you can see the panda eyes on those who have caught the sun whilst on the slopes. SunSmart.org.uk is a campaign of Cancer Research UK addressing the reality of skin cancer.
A new survey commissioned by Cancer Research UK with support pf the Ski Club of Great Britain reveals 65% of snow lovers admit to getting burnt whilst on their skiing or snowboarding holiday. The majority (90%) say they are aware that ultraviolet (UV) rays, which cause sunburn, are stronger at high altitude than on a beach.
One-third of those surveyed (32%) are further increasing their chances of skin cancer by applying sunscreen just once a day - experts advise it is crucial to apply sunscreen on a regular basis. Not only does this protect against the sun, but it reduces drying of the skin by the cold air and wind.
Half of those asked were unaware that the dangers of sunburn still persisted when it was snowing, or in blizzard conditions. Up to 80% of the sun's UV rays penetrate light clouds, so even if it's cloudy it's important to protect yourself. At altitude there is less atmosphere to filter UV rays, hence the increased dangers. With every 300m, UV intensity increases by 4-8%. So your skin can burn more quickly on the slopes than at sea level.
Sara Hiom, Head of Health Information for Cancer Research UK says: “It's worrying that so many people are allowing themselves to get sunburnt when enjoying winter sports. Often, people who would never dream of baking themselves on a sun-drenched beach will hit the slopes with little regard for the hazards of the strength of the sun. Experts believe sunburn doubles the risk of skin cancer, so it's vitally important to use protection from UV rays when you're in a high-altitude environment, especially around midday.”
The charity recommends frequently using a good quality sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection with a minimum SPF15. For more protection, such as on noses and ears, a total block with zinc could be used for added protection. Good quality eye protection is also needed.
Often neglected is the 85% reflection of sunlight from the surface of the snow - 98% of this glare can be filtered out by polarized lenses in glasses or goggles. Those on the slopes should also ensure that their choice of eye protection filters UV, a proven contributor to a variety of eye diseases.