-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Skiers and other outdoor
enthusiasts need to be aware that factors such as weather
conditions and time of day can cause considerable variation in the
levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation during the winter, researchers
They analyzed data collected between 2001 and 2003 at 32
high-altitude ski resorts in western North America. They also
interviewed adult guests at the resorts and looked at their
clothing and equipment in order to assess their level of sun
Average UV levels at the ski resorts were moderately low but
varied substantially, the researchers found. Clear skies, time
close to noon, and more hours of daylight as the ski season
progressed were the strongest predictors of increased UV radiation.
The researchers also found minor associations between higher UV
radiation and altitude, longitude and temperature.
However, elevated UV levels were not associated with increased
use of sun-protection measures, such as sunscreen lip balm,
application of sunscreen 30 minutes before skiing, wearing a head
cover with a brim, or wearing gloves.
The study did find that as UV levels increased, adults were more
likely to wear sunscreen with a minimum 15 SPF and to reapply it
after two hours, and more likely to wear sunglasses or goggles. Men
were more likely than women to use sunscreen.
"Skiers and snowboarders evidently monitor outdoor alpine environments in two ways, for sun protection and cold protection," wrote Peter A. Andersen, San Diego State University, and colleagues in a news release from the publisher. "For sun protection, they rely mainly on clear skies as a UV cue. They correctly link clear skies with the need for UV protection and use and reapply more sunscreen because UV is present on clear days."
But decisions about protective clothing appear to be based on
inclement weather (staying warm) rather than elevated UV
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at
Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the research shows that
people who engage in outdoor sports are at higher risk for sun
damage and skin cancer than they may realize.
"It highlights the importance of counseling patients to wear UV protection every day all year-round, especially if they are participating in outdoor activities at higher altitudes, and especially if they are at higher risk for skin cancer," Day said.
Andersen and his team agreed that more needs to be done to
educate winter sports enthusiasts on the sun's dangers.
"More sophisticated sun safety promotions are needed that teach people both to take precautions and to judge accurately when UV is high," the authors conclude. "In future safety promotions, adults should be encouraged to wear sunscreen on cloudy days because UV is still high and conditions can change rapidly. They need reminders to rely more on season and time of day when judging UV and the need for sun safety," the researchers concluded.
The study appears in the November issue of the journal
Archives of Dermatology.
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