Skiers warned about skin cancerMost people unaware of dangers says expert

06 January 2009

Skiers on the slopes

Avoiding broken bones and keeping out the cold are the main priorities for most skiers – but according to a top skin cancer expert, protecting yourself properly from the sun is as essential as the right equipment and warm clothing.

Dr Jonathan Bowling, consultant dermatologist at London’s Cadogan Clinic says that most people don’t understand the importance of sun protection when skiing.

At altitude levels of UV radiation exposure are higher and things like trees and grass that normally absorb UV actually reflect it back at skiers when they’re covered in snow, Dr Bowling explained.

Treat slopes like the beach

Dr Bowling said: ‘Anyone skiing should treat the slopes like a beach and apply just as much, if not more sun protection to any exposed skin than they would when stretching out on a sun-lounger.

Sun cream for skiing should be the highest factor tolerated, with a minimum SPF of 30, and should be broad spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB, and should be reapplied every 2 hours. Sun blocks which contain a higher percentage of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide should be considered as they give excellent, long-lasting protection, even though they are cosmetically inferior; a practical approach would be to use these products for just the lips and nose. Finally do not forget to protect children.’

Substandard screens

Choosing the right sun screen is crucial – last year a test of 14 well-known brands by Which? uncovered three that do not provide the SPF claimed on the bottle. Which? also found that most people only use between a quarter and a half of the amount they’re supposed to.

Dr Bowling also stressed the need for skiers to protect their eyes and eyelids from damaging UV rays by wearing sunglasses or goggles with UV filters.

Keep an eye out

Anyone who has been exposed to the sun, particularly if they have burnt, should contact their doctor straight away if they notice any new or unusual moles or blemishes as these could lead to skin cancer if left unchecked.

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