Winter is Dangerous for Skin Cancer Too

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Tips to protect against winter sun damage from dermatology specialists Dr. Joshua Fox and Dr. Barry Silver.

Dr. Joshua Fox

Most people are conditioned to apply sunscreen in the summer, particularly at the beach and at other outdoor activities, but we find, regretfully, that less people are applying the sunscreen needed to protect their skin in the winter months.

As families and outdoor adventurers prepare to hit the slopes this winter, dermatology specialists Dr. Joshua Fox and Dr. Barry Silver, associate director of Advanced Dermatology PC in Summit and Ridgewood, NJ, offer a word of caution, protect your skin from the sun, and especially for men, protect your ears.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, men’s increased risk for skin cancer is due to their shorter hairstyles combined with improper sunscreen application. In addition, women are also susceptible, especially if they have thin or short hair, or wear their hair pulled back in a ponytail. “The ears are the third most common location on the body for basal cell carcinomas, a nonmelanoma skin cancer,” says Dr. Silver. “We see greater prevalence of ear skin cancer in men than women.”

“I cannot underestimate the importance of sunscreen application to every bit of exposed skin even during the winter months,” advises Dr. Fox. “Most people are conditioned to apply sunscreen in the summer, particularly at the beach and at other outdoor activities, but we find, regretfully, that less people are applying the sunscreen needed to protect their skin in the winter months.”

“Winter weather can intensify the negative effects of UV exposure in several ways. First, snow reflects up to 80 percent of UV light, meaning the same sun rays can hit you twice. And second, snow and strong winds can erode sunscreen protection.”
Dr. Fox and Dr. Silver offer that skiers are particularly vulnerable to sun damage because of the high elevations of the mountains where the UV exposure can be far more intense than even at the beach. This is because UV exposure increases 4 to 5 percent with every 1,000 feet above sea level.

According to Dr. Fox, there are smart ways to protect yourself from skin cancer during the winter months.
Smart Sun Safety Tips for Winter

  • Apply broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher at least 20 minutes before going outdoors.
  • Make sure to use enough sunscreen. You will need to apply at least 1 teaspoon to your face to provide adequate protection.
  • Pay attention to apply sunscreen to frequently overlooked places, such as the ears (on top and behind), lips, around the eyes, neck (front and back), underside of chin and scalp.
  • Wear lip balm with SPF 15 or higher and reapply frequently, even when your lips do not feel dry.
  • Apply sunscreen to hands, face and lips before driving in your car. More skin cancers are found on the left side of patients' faces (which is the side exposed to the most sunlight while driving).
  • Wear large frame sunglasses or wraparound goggles to protect your eyes and eyelids, where melanoma can develop.
  • Take breaks and go indoors every two hours to reapply sunscreen.
  • Invest in a ski mask to protect your scalp and face from UV rays when spending time on the slopes.
  • If possible, avoid exposure to the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun’s UV penetration is highest.

An estimated 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and 1.3 million new cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer will be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society. One in every 62 Americans will develop melanoma and about 8,000 are expected to die from the disease.

More than 90 percent of skin cancer is caused by exposure to UV radiation. These 8,000 deaths are largely preventable if we protect ourselves from the sun. Simple preventative steps can go a long way towards reducing the potential harm to the skin from the winter sun.
Advanced Dermatology P.C., the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) provides cutting edge medical, laser & cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery services. http://www.advanceddermatologypc.com

Joshua L. Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D., is the founder and medical director at Advanced Dermatology P.C. He is a leading authority in the field of dermatology with expertise in skin cancer, cosmetic surgery and laser procedures and is program director of a fellowship in laser and cosmetic surgery

Barry Silver, M.D. F.A.A.D., associate director of Advanced Dermatology PC in Summit and Ridgewood, NJ. He provides medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology services to patients of all ages.

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