November 18, 2010

UV Protection Still Crucial During Winter Months

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Unfortunately for outdoor sports enthusiasts, Ultraviolet (UV) levels don't slope downhill during winter months.  UV levels can still be high throughout the winter season, so preventive measures should be taken by skiers, hikers and athletes when planning activities, according to experts.

Exposure to UV radiation is the biggest risk factor of developing skin cancer.  Avoiding it requires specific knowledge about the temporal, seasonal and geographic conditions of a given area.

San Diego State University researcher Peter A. Andersen, Ph.D. and his associates studied these conditions at 32 high-altitude ski resorts in the U.S between the years of 2001 and 2003.  The research involved questioning subjects who skied during three-day periods, and taking note of their sun-protective wardrobe and equipment.  Data about temperature, cloud cover, time and date were gathered for comparison.

The researchers discovered that UV levels varied significantly between the 32 resorts, but on average were generally low.  Factors such as sky clarity, closeness to noon, and distance from the winter solstice influenced the fluctuating UV levels the most.  Temperature had a positive, but no overwhelming, connection to these levels, and altitude and latitude were associated to a lesser extent as well.

An inconsistent correlation between elevated UV levels and the protective behaviors of the subjects, including lip balm use, sunscreen application, head covering and glove wearing, was found.  Overall, the subjects were more likely to apply and reapply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 and wear sunglasses or goggles when UV levels increased.  They intuitively viewed clear skies as an indicator of heightened UV levels, but seemed more likely to make protective clothing choices based on weather severity than UV index.

"More sophisticated sun safety promotions are needed that teach people both to take precautions and to judge accurately when UV is high" the authors of the study wrote.  "They need reminders to rely more on season and time of day when judging UV and the need for sun safety."

SOURCE:  JAMA and Archives Journals, November 2010