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Winter Skies Still Pose Sun Danger, Experts Warn
Date:11/16/2010

TUESDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts need to be aware that factors such as weather conditions and time of day can cause considerable variation in the levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation during the winter, researchers say.

They analyzed data collected between 2001 and 2003 at 32 high-altitude ski resorts in western North America. They also interviewed adult guests at the resorts and looked at their clothing and equipment in order to assess their level of sun protection.

Average UV levels at the ski resorts were moderately low but varied substantially, the researchers found. Clear skies, time close to noon, and more hours of daylight as the ski season progressed were the strongest predictors of increased UV radiation. The researchers also found minor associations between higher UV radiation and altitude, longitude and temperature.

However, elevated UV levels were not associated with increased use of sun-protection measures, such as sunscreen lip balm, application of sunscreen 30 minutes before skiing, wearing a head cover with a brim, or wearing gloves.

The study did find that as UV levels increased, adults were more likely to wear sunscreen with a minimum 15 SPF and to reapply it after two hours, and more likely to wear sunglasses or goggles. Men were more likely than women to use sunscreen.

"Skiers and snowboarders evidently monitor outdoor alpine environments in two ways, for sun protection and cold protection," wrote Peter A. Andersen, San Diego State University, and colleagues in a news release from the publisher. "For sun protection, they rely mainly on clear skies as a UV cue. They correctly link clear skies with the need for UV protection and use and reapply more sunscreen because UV is present on clear days."

But decisions about protective clothing appear to be based on inclement weather (staying warm) rather than elevated UV levels.

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