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The Winter Sun Can Fry You

Experts suggest you take it as seriously as a summer sun

SUNDAY, Feb. 15, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- If you think the sun can only cause skin damage during the hot summer months, think again.

You may be just as vulnerable to dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays on a ski slope in January as you are at a backyard barbecue in July.

Skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts should realize that although UV rays are mostly blocked by the atmosphere in the northern states during winter, sunlight can reflect off snow and water and damage your skin.

This can lead to prematurely aged skin, wrinkles and even skin cancer. The face and hands, if left uncovered, may develop brown spots and red, crusted spots (actinic keratoses), the latter of which can also turn into skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends year-round use of a full spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The cancer society also says to avoid peak sunlight hours -- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- when those UV rays are most intense.

Also noteworthy is that those who live in states such as Florida and Arizona, where the sun is bright most days of the year, are two times more likely to develop skin cancer than residents of Wisconsin or Minnesota. In these areas, an even higher SPF factor sunscreen is recommended.

According to the cancer society, the majority of the 1 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year are sun-related, and most medical experts agree that not matter where you live, you should apply sunscreen all year long.

More information

The Skin Cancer Foundation has more on sun safety.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society
Consumer News