Winter means that many of us will spend more time indoors, bundle up when outdoors, and swap our sunscreens for a nice soothing moisturiser. In winter, there’s less ultraviolet from the sun, and we tend to get less exposure, but it doesn’t mean that the risk of Skin Cancer is completely gone.
Sun damage can alter the DNA in your skin’s cells, and the damage is cumulative, so even a little bit of burn from UV exposure each day can build up over time. The Cancer Council recommends that you take measures to protect yourself from the sun when the UV level is as low as 3, which occurs on most winter afternoons (it’s much higher on summer days).
If you spend your lunch hour outside or take an afternoon walk, you’re getting some sun exposure. Contrary to popular belief, even cloudy days require protection. Some types of clouds tend to block UV radiation while other types can reflect and magnify it. It’s best to wear sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors during the time of day when the sun is strongest, even if it’s winter. If you have dry winter skin, a moisturising sunscreen might even be soothing for you.
Water and snow also reflect UV radiation, so if you plan to take a ferry or go skiing in the Snowy Mountains, wear a hat and apply sunscreen. It’s a common misconception that because it’s cold, you won’t get burned. Also, the UV might be lower in winter, but if you’re in an environment where it’s reflected, you’re getting extra radiation.
Winter is also a good time to get your annual skin cancer check. Technically, any season is a good time to be checked, but it’s on fewer people’s minds in winter, compared to summer months, so it might be easier to get in for an appointment.
It’s recommended that you get a skin cancer check every 12 months, or anytime you notice something that concerns you. If you notice any spots or moles that change in colour or shape, new spots or freckles, small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour, or if you notice and red scaly areas that do not seem to heal, it’s a good idea to get it checked.