UV Rays in Winter: The Other Side of the Sun

By Cathy Clark, APR - December 12, 2019

Last winter, more than 35 million people visited Florida, many coming to enjoy a respite from the harsh, cold weather farther north.

Florida boasts the mildest winters in the continental United States, with warm days and cool nights conducive to outdoor activities — boating, golfing and tennis, as well as to more sedentary outdoor pursuits such as leisurely beach walks and picnics.

Most people think of sunburns as happening at the beach during hot weather. Florida can be a winter playground for outdoor activities, and it can be easy to forget that the sun produces harmful ultraviolet rays throughout the year, independent of temperature or cloud cover. The risk of sun damage and exposure to UV rays that could lead to cancer is great, despite milder temperatures.

Moffitt Cancer Center cutaneous oncologist Dr. Jonathan Zager encourages everyone to protect themselves from developing skin cancer every day — regardless of the weather or the season.

“We know sun exposure without protection in terms of sun protective clothing and sunscreen can lead to skin cancer.  Sunscreen not only should be worn in Florida in the winter months, but it can and should be worn up north, during the winter months. People can get a sunburn skiing!  One should really never leave the house without sunscreen on if you’re planning on being outside during the day. Sunshine out or not, wear your sunscreen and help prevent skin cancer,” said Zager.

Here are some helpful tips to enjoy the outdoors year-round and protect your skin at the same time:

  • Choose a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that has a sun protection factor of 30 or higher.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally to all areas of exposed skin at least 30 minutes prior to going outside.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and immediately after swimming or sweating.
  • Protect vulnerable and sensitive areas of your body, such as the face, ears and hands. Consider applying sunscreen with zinc oxide for extra protection.
  • Consider wearing sun protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeve shirt, long pants, rash guard and/or other clothing items with UV-protection ratings. Whenever jackets and other protective clothing are removed due to warming temperatures, be sure to apply sunscreen to any exposed areas.
  • As always, eliminate tanning beds and avoid the temptation to return home with a “healthy” tan that is anything but healthy.
  • Also remember to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

With a little planning and precaution, it is possible to safely enjoy the outdoors while protecting your skin.

“We literally can prevent the overwhelming majority of skin cancers with proper sun awareness and protection in sunscreen and protective clothing,” said Zager.

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Cathy Clark, APR Senior Managing Editor 813-745-1347 More Articles

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