Those heading for a winter break in the snow-covered Alps in 2014 will do well to remember that broken bones, twisted knees and the odd hang-over are not the only dangers they face.
Exposure to ultraviolet light is increased by virtue of high altitude and reflection of the sun’s rays off the snow. Ultraviolet light type A (UVA) is associated with the development of malignant melanoma while UVB is linked to squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma of the skin.
It has been estimated that UV exposure increases by around 5% for every 1,000 feet above sea level, increasing to up to 45% for those skiers ascending to 10,000 feet (just over 3,000 metres). Snow can reflect up to 80% of UV light, meaning that skiers are effectively hit by the sun’s rays twice.
Here are a few tips to help you reduce your UV exposure and your skin cancer risk:
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher whenever you spend extended time outdoors. Apply 30 minutes before hitting the slopes. Be aware that the sun’s reflection off the snow is strong even on cloudy days. (Up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate clouds.)
- Apply sunscreen liberally and evenly to all exposed skin – most skiers and snowboarders do not use enough. You should apply at least a teaspoon to the face.
- Use a moisturising sunscreen with ingredients like lanolin or glycerin. Winter conditions can be particularly harsh on the skin.
- Be sure to cover often-missed spots: the lips, ears, around the eyes, and on the neck, the underside of chin, scalp and hands.
- Reapply every two hours, and immediately after heavy sweating.
- Always wear a lip balm with an SPF 15 or higher – lips are very sensitive.
- Carry a travel-sized sunscreen and lip balm with you on the slopes. Reapply on the chairlift, especially after a long, snow-blown run.
- Always wear sun glasses with UV protection: ocular melanoma is a rare tumour but, like other melanomas, it is strongly linked to exposure of harmful UVA.
Actinica® Lotion medical-grade sunscreen is now available from Exeter Medical. Actinica® Lotion contains a combination of modern photo-stable UV filters, and these cover a broad spectrum to absorb, reflect and scatter UV radiation. It is highly effective in protecting from UVB as well as from UVA radiation.
Regulations for Actinica® Lotion are different to the ones that apply to cosmetic products. So it is important to note that the UV protection level of Actinica® Lotion has been tested according to the European cosmetic requirements for sunscreens: its UVB and UVA protection level meets the highest category.