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How Montanans can prevent skin cancer during winter time

Skier going down the hill
Posted at 2:15 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-27 16:15:03-05

MISSOULA — While National Cancer Prevention Month takes place during the winter, the risk of skin cancer is still prevalent.

This is because cancer-causing UV rays can filter through cloudy or foggy weather, according to Community Medical Center plastic surgeon Dr. Bradley Coots.

He also notes that being at higher elevations, gives the skin less protection from the atmosphere and that the sun reflecting off the snow can be damaging — especially to skiers and snowboarders who are often in those elements.

“So UVB is the one we worry about primarily with skin cancer and with snow,” Coots said. “When there’s snow on the ground, the snow actually reflects 80% of the UVB rays, the cancer-causing rays, and so you essentially get a double, a double hit or double exposure to the sun’s rays in the winter time when you’re in the snowy environment it’s very important to continue to protect with a SPF factor sunblock of 30 to 50 is what we recommend.”

Dr. Coots told MTN that anyone who notices changes in their skin that cause concern should immediately call their healthcare provider.