With high mountain peaks and acres of powdery snow, Utah is known for its great skiing. However, Utahns who spend lots of time outdoors at high elevations are at increased risk for skin damage from the sun, which can lead to skin cancer.
With these combined conditions, Utah has the highest rate of melanoma skin cancer in the United States. Even though skiing is a winter sport, sun damage is just as likely on the slopes as it is on the beach.
What increases your risk of skin damage from the sun while enjoying the mountains?
- The sun’s UV rays (Ultraviolet Rays from the sun that cause skin damage) are stronger at higher elevations. At 10,000 feet elevation, you are 70% more exposed to UV rays than at sea level.
- Snow acts like a giant mirror and reflects 80% of UV rays up towards your body and face.
These two factors increase your exposure to harmful UV rays by more than 150% than if you were at the beach.
Even one sunburn has a significant impact on your risk of skin cancer.
To ensure you have a safe and fun day on the slopes, follow these tips to protect your skin from the sun.
- Cover your skin with long sleeves and long pants.
- Put on a hat or helmet, for added protection while skiing, snowshoeing, sledding or snowboarding.
- Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection or UV-reflective goggles.
- Use lip balm with an SPF of 30+ for best protection from sun.
- Apply SPF 30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen to any areas of skin not protected by clothing.
- For chemical-based sunscreens, apply 20 minutes before going outside and reapply often. Do not forget to apply to the top of your head and ears if you are not wearing a hat or helmet.
Ultimately, a combination of these behaviors is the best way to stay sun safe and reduce your UV exposure.
Learn more about cancer screening and prevention.