Winter Sun Safety Is Critical: Increased Skin Cancer Risk For Ski Resort Employees

Nov 26, 2018

Sun safety is important year round, especially during the winter when high elevation and the sun reflecting off the snow increases sin cancer risk.
Credit Ski Utah

A Utah cancer institute is providing sun care and cancer screening programs to ski resort employees.

"The ski resorts and the mountains, the individuals who work in those areas as well as recreate in the mountains have a higher than average risk," said Garrett Harding, community outreach manager of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

“Because of primarily the elevation and then the active outdoor lifestyle year-round and then the fact that the majority of Utah residents, we are a northern European, Caucasian descent population – and so all of that is kind of a perfect trifecta of risk," he said.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute partnered with the Utah Cancer Action Network and the University of Utah Health system to develop a program called Sun Safe on the Slopes. The traveling program is held at Utah ski resorts to educate employees about their increased risk of skin cancer and to offer skin cancer screenings.

"And so what we found is that overall they have a higher risk of presumed skin cancers," said Harding. "The screenings yielded 9.6 percent of participants with a presumed skin cancer and so that’s higher than the general population."

According to the National Cancer Institute, Utah has the highest rate of melanoma in the country.

“But there are some pretty simple things that we can implement in our life to help reduce our skin cancer risk," said Chris Hull, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Utah, and one of the dermatologists with the Sun Safe on the Slopes program. 

"And that’s regular use of sunscreen. The exposed areas, especially the face and the eyes, you want to be wearing goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from UV light and then you want to either use a face mask or sunscreen even on a cloudy day in December because you’re still going to get a lot of UV exposure because of the very high elevation that the ski areas are at and the reflection off the snow," Hull said.

"Our message for people is, 'Go out and do all the great things that Utah has to offer,'" said Hull.