Skin damage comes from UV radiation that is still present during winter, so it is just as important as ever to make sure you are taking the proper safety precautions when exposing yourself to the sun. Here are 5 useful tips that can help you stay skin cancer safe this winter:
Pay attention to the daily UV index forecast
One of the key things to understand when considering sun protection in winter is that UV intensity is not the same thing as heat. It is possible to have a cloudy or cold day with a relatively high UV intensity that can still do significant damage to your skin.
Therefore, you should make a habit of checking the UV index forecast in your area every day. The UV index is a measure of the intensity of UV rays at any moment in time. An index of 1 or 2 is generally considered a safe level of exposure. Levels 3 and higher are considered progressively more dangerous. Winter days in Australia can often reach UV levels of 3+, meaning that sun protection should still be an important consideration for anyone looking to spend time outdoors during the colder seasons.
Take extra care when in the snow, especially at high altitudes
While snow and high altitudes are relatively rare in Australia, there are many Aussies who enjoy a good run on the slopes or a fun winter getaway up in the mountains. For Australian’s who are more used to the beach than the mountains it is important to understand that UV rays work differently at different attitudes.
The higher up you go the more intense UV radiation becomes, increasing by 5% with every 1,000 feet. Meaning that Mount Kosciuszko (a small mountain by world standards) sees 35% more intense radiation than places at sea level.
A second reason why winter protection is so important in mountainous areas is that snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation. This means that not only is UV radiation more intense the higher up you go but the snow ensures that you get a double dose.
Avoid sun exposure when the sun is at its peak
The best way to avoid skin damage in winter is to avoid sun exposure during peak hours, normally between 10am and 4pm. This ensures that you are not exposing yourself when the sun is at its peak, but if you do want to go outside then you should follow all the normally safety precautions that you would in summer.
Take the normal precautions in winter if spending time outside of the house
Normally precautions include the slip, slop, slap, seek and slide technique. This stands for slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on some UV protection sunglasses. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that is 30 SPF or higher and ensure that you reapply it every 2 hours if outside.
Winter is the ideal time to get your skin checked
Winter is also an ideal time to get a skin check. It often takes dangerous skin conditions a little while to develop, so while most people get their skin checked in summer, it is in fact better to get it checked a couple of months later when skin cancer might be beginning to present itself.
A skin check is a quick process that ensures no moles on your body are showing irregularities that might develop into skin cancer. They can be booked through a skin cancer clinic or skin specialist.