Do I really need to wear sunscreen in the winter?

“If you spend a lot of time outdoors, winter can pose just as much risk of sun damage as summer does,” says Xiang Da (Eric) Dong, MD, Associate Director of Surgical Oncology at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).

“In the winter, UVA light levels do not decrease — and the majority of skin damage, aging and wrinkling comes from UVA.”

Skiers also should take caution, he says. Every thousand-foot increase in altitude brings a 4% increase in the sun’s intensity. “Snowy slopes can reflect the sun even more intensely than the beach,” Dr. Dong says, adding that men are three times more likely than women to develop skin cancer; plus, men tend to develop melanoma, the more dangerous form.
Women, instead, tend to develop less risky forms, such as basal-cell and squamous-cell cancers. “Everyone should absolutely wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 on areas exposed to the winter sun, especially those with fairer skin,” he recommends.

If you are concerned about a mole or lesion that is changing, bring it to the attention of your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

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