Northern Ireland Paralympic skier Kelly Gallagher spends a lot of time on the snow, but she is aware that although it may be cold she still needs to protect herself from the sun’s rays.
Sunscreen is one holiday essential that often gets left behind when people take a winter holiday. The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are reminding people not to forget about the sunscreen during their winter get-away.
Whether you are heading to the ski slopes or jetting off for some winter sun, it is important to stay safe in the sun during your break.
Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine with the PHA, explained: “Many people may not be aware of the risk of sunburn during winter months but it is important to take appropriate steps to protect your skin from the winter sun.
“Research shows that over recent years there has been an increase in cases of malignant melanoma, the least common but most serious form of skin cancer. This type of cancer is linked to sun exposure and the number of cases in Northern Ireland has almost trebled in the past 25 years. Everyone is at risk of sun damage, therefore it is vitally important that all of us take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and actively reduce the risks of skin cancer.”
Despite the fact that it’s chilly up in the mountains and you’re surrounded by snow, this is one of the places that you’re most likely to get sunburnt and suffer from skin damage.
Kelly Gallagher said: “I always make sure I’ve applied sunscreen before I head out for a day’s training or racing on the slopes, and I am particularly careful about protecting my lips by using a good lip salve.”
Antoinette McKeown, Chief Executive Sport Northern Ireland, commented: “While Sport Northern Ireland promotes the health benefits of getting outdoors and being active all year round, it is also important to be aware of the risk of damage that can be caused to skin by the sun – no matter if it’s summer or winter sun”.
Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy Co-ordinator with Cancer Focus, said: “Being out in the sun has the feel good factor. Sunlight can boost our vitamin D levels and encourage us to be more physically active, but over-exposure can damage your skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.
“UV radiation from the sun can cause skin damage, even on cloudy days. Be careful of sand, water and snow which can reflect the sun’s rays.”
If you are concerned about any aspect of cancer call Cancer Focus’s free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the nurses on [email protected] You can also visit the website www.careinthesun.org.