March is a great time for skiing, snowboarding, and going out for a hot drink with friends while enjoying the crisp winter air. When you’re outside on a day like that, harmful UV radiation and skin cancer are probably the last things on your mind. “It’s freezing, cloudy and going to rain soon, there’s nothing to worry about!” Since up to 80% of UV rays can pass through clouds, and these rays are one of the biggest causes of skin cancer, this is far from the truth.
Skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma are all affected by the sun’s UV rays. Since over 2 million people were diagnosed with skin cancer in 2016, making sure that you stay safe in the sun is a big deal! Even getting one bad sunburn every couple of years TRIPLES your risk of developing skin cancer!
When it’s cloudy outside, many people don’t think about protecting their skin against the sun. Although it may not seem like it, clouds have an important role in UV rays based on their composition. Things like density, pollution, and location of the cloud in the atmosphere all play a part in determining how much of the sun’s harmful rays are blocked. Did you know that even partially cloudy days are a culprit of sending you increased doses of UV radiation, known as cloud enhancement? Rays can actually reflect off of the edges of clouds and become concentrated before shining down on you, increasing your risk of developing skin cancer!
This is the last thing that most people would expect- they think they’re safe under the blanket of clouds, when in reality, they are leaving their skin unprotected. In some ways, this makes cloudy days as dangerous as directly sunny days since very few people are aware of the dangers of UV rays on overcast or chilly days. Another problem is that many weather stations don’t take cloud enhancement or reflection into account when sharing the daily UV index. This measurement (on a scale of 1-20) is used to help people see the daily risk of radiation. Since many people aren’t wary of this threat in the winter, and some weather networks don’t take this factor into account, it remains a silent but dangerous cause of skin cancer. Always make sure that you’re in the know for UV news! Apps like UV Aware help you keep track of important weather updates, tips on how to reduce your exposure to the sun’s rays, and keep your skin healthy all year round.
What about inside?
It’s also important to remember that glass car and house windows let in natural light. Although most UVB rays are blocked, UVA rays can actually pass through glass and reach your skin. That means that if you are sitting by a window watching TV, reading a book, driving, or even walking around a naturally lit room, you’re still absorbing these rays and potentially damaging your skin. Although protective glass is available, most people aren’t planning on changing their windows anytime soon. Always be wary of your skin’s health- pay attention to how much light you’re soaking up and do your best to sit away from windows during peak sunlight hours (10:00am-4:00pm). Click here to learn more about the UV Index!
Since these rays are responsible for skin aging, burning, and causing skin cancer, it’s imperative that people protect themselves against these risk (regardless of the weather forecast)! Although skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, it is also preventable. Always wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30, especially on your face, neck and shoulders, and wear hats, UV-protective sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing. SkinCancer.org and offers great tips for how to stay safe in the sun (and shade).
Your skin health and safety should take priority no matter what time of year it is. Always remember to protect your skin, be wary of those UV rays, and be skin smart. Enjoy the sun safely :)
The MetaOptima Team