Sun protection is needed every day


Last updated 11/24/2018 at 9:59am

Applying sunscreen on a daily basis helps protect against skin cancer and premature aging.

NEW YORK – Fall is finally here, and many parts of the country are already experiencing cooler weather, more precipitation and more overcast days. It's easy to associate vigilant sun protection with summertime – when the sun is shining intensely – but it's important to remember sun protection is necessary every day, regardless of the weather or time of year.

"Even when it's cold or overcast, UV rays that cause skin aging and skin cancer are reaching your skin," says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. "In the right winter weather conditions, you can sustain sun damage just as easily as during the summer."

UVB rays, the main cause of sunburn, are the strongest in the summer. However, UVB rays can burn and damage skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice. Snow reflects up to 80 percent of the sun's UV light, so the rays hit twice, further increasing the risk of skin cancer and premature aging.

UVA rays remain constant throughout the year and can penetrate through clouds and fog. UVA rays can also penetrate glass, so it's still possible to suffer skin damage while spending a bright winter day indoors.

The first line of defense against this sun damage is clothing. Covering up is easier in the winter – it's cold out – but the face, head and neck tend to remain exposed year-round, and this is where most skin cancers occur. Don't forget to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat before heading out. Sunglasses protect the eyes while also fighting snow glare, and a hat keeps a head warm while keeping UV rays from damaging the scalp.

Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily to all exposed skin, remembering to make sure to cover often-missed spots like the tops of ears, around the eyes and near the hairline. Consider choosing a moisturizing sunscreen with ingredients like lanolin or glycerin to combat dry winter skin. Finally, try to avoid the peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and seek shade when possible.

Winter is approaching, but that's no reason to let up on the sun safe habits practiced during the summer. Continuing sun protection efforts through the colder, cloudier months of the year reduces the risk of developing the most common cancer.

Submitted by the Skin Care Foundation.


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