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Skin Cancer Not Just Summer Concern: January 21, 2012

If you are like many people, you slather on the sunscreen during the summer.

“I think it’s pretty important, I use it anytime I go outside,” says Ashley Wise.

Then put the bottle on a shelf all winter long. It’s easy to forget the sun’s harmful rays don’t go into hibernation, particularly in places like Florida.

“Skin caner has a high prevalence in the Sun Belt states; the areas where there is more year round sun exposure,” says Dr. Drew Kreegel, a plastic surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.

While the intensity of ultraviolet B or UV B rays diminish in winter, ultraviolet A or UV A stays the same. UV A rays are more prevalent overall and also contribute to skin cancer.

“The UV B is that portion of sunlight that is the most damaging, UV A is damaging but not to the extent of UV B,” says Dr. Kreegel.

With year round beach weather and welcoming warmth for golf and outdoor sports, there is a real risk of too much exposure.

“The concern is the potential for causing skin cancer and also skin aging the damage it does to the different layers to the skin that accelerates wrinkling,” says Dr. Kreegel.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., making up more than half of the total cases. Melanoma is the most rare form, but also the most deadly. Skin damage is accumulative so it takes a toll even in the colder months.

“When you’re outside whether you’re walking, driving, you’re still getting sunlight and therefore UV A and UV B exposure,” says Dr. Kreegel.

Experts suggest you avoid midday hours, wear a hat to protect your face, and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF.

“I always try to go higher though, just to make sure,” says Wise.

Even in winter, it’s important to stay sun smart.