Maine CDC Press Release

February 29, 2008

Skin Cancer Remains a Concern In the Winter Months

Holly Richards at (207) 287-4321 or visit

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Cancer Consortium’s Skin Cancer Workgroup reminds Mainers that there is a risk for skin cancer even in the winter.

The fact is that Maine has a higher than average incidence rate of skin cancer compared to the nation. People who ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or participate in other outdoor winter recreation activities are at risk for sunburn and skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, reflections from the snow can more than double a person’s risk from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation is invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun, sun lamps, or tanning beds. It can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. Excessive exposure to the sun causes most skin cancers, and numerous studies have shown that sunburns during the first 20 years of life are linked to melanoma, the most fatal form of skin cancers.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that 40-50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have skin cancer at least once in their lifetime. The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer.

Here are some things to keep mind:

  • A cloudy day does not mean you are protected from UV radiation. Clouds block only about 20 percent of harmful UV radiation.
  • Water, sand, concrete and snow can reflect up to 90 percent of sun’s rays both upward and sideways.
  • Tanning beds increase the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.
  • Risks are higher for people with light skin color, light hair color, llight eye color, a family history of skin cancer, a history of severe sunburns, especially early in life and those who use tanning beds.

To Protect Skin, Remember the ABCs of Sun Safety!

  • Avoid unprotected exposure of the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the suns rays are the strongest.
  • Block out the sun by using sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, and reapply every two hours. Be sure to reach often-missed areas, such as the ears, neck, hands and feet.
  • Cover up with long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV-protection lenses.