Sunscreen is one holiday essential that often gets left behind when people pack for a winter holiday, so the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are reminding travellers not to forget about sunscreen during their half term get-away, whether they’re heading for the slopes or the beach.
Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, explained: “Many people may not be aware of the risk of sunburn during winter months but it is important to take steps to protect your skin from the winter sun. The sun can cause permanent damage to our skin at any time of the year. Just one episode of sunburn, especially in childhood, doubles the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
“Everyone is at risk of sun damage, therefore it is vitally important that all of us take steps to protect ourselves and actively reduce the risks of skin cancer, whether we’re going on a skiing holiday or heading off to somewhere warm.
“It is easy to associate winter with frostbite and windburn, but most people are unaware that UV rays can be every bit as damaging for winter sun seekers – just because it is off-peak does not mean that the sun is any less harmful. ”
Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy Co-ordinator at Cancer Focus NI, said: “You don’t need to be sunbathing to get skin cancer – it is over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) which can cause serious damage over time. It is important for everyone to avoid getting sunburnt, and this is particularly important for children.
“UV radiation from the sun can cause skin damage, even on cloudy days. Both snow and water reflect the sun’s rays, and the higher altitude of ski resorts means increased intensity of UV radiation. Both snow and strong wind can wear away sunscreen and reduce its effectiveness, so in snow conditions it is best to take extra precautions and protect skin from the winds and winter sun.
“As well as skin cancer, UVR also causes skin damage, ageing, wrinkling and eye damage, so it is vital to take the necessary measures to protect yourself and enjoy winter sun and ski holidays safely.”
- Seek shade and avoid prolonged exposure when the sun is at its strongest – generally 11am to 3pm.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat that protect against UV rays.
- Use sunscreen and lip balm with a minimum SPF of 15 for UVB protection and 4 star for UVA protection. Apply liberally 30 minutes before going out and don’t forget your head, neck and ears. Re-apply at least every two hours.
- Check regularly for any changes to moles.
If you are concerned about any aspect of cancer call the Cancer Focus NI free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the nurses on firstname.lastname@example.org You can also visit the websites www.becancerawareni.info, www.cancerfocusni.org or www.careinthesun.org