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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 03-29-08, 01:20 PM   #1
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Can you get skin cancer from winter sun?

It is well known that a hot summer sun can give you a lasting tan , but can the winter sun do the same? How much less 'cancerous' is the winter vs. summer sun. Is exposure to winter sun 50% as dangerous as prolonged exposure to summer sun?
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Old 03-29-08, 03:10 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by veggie_lover View Post
It is well known that a hot summer sun can give you a lasting tan , but can the winter sun do the same? How much less 'cancerous' is the winter vs. summer sun. Is exposure to winter sun 50% as dangerous as prolonged exposure to summer sun?
From my understanding (I'm no doctor) unless you're very prone for some reason you shouldn't worry about it. In general we worry about skin cancer too much even in summer, the fact is our bodies need the vitamin D the sun gives us and most of the hype has been created by pharmaceutical companies. Burning your skin is dangerous and my cause cancer over time, if you're out all day in the summer cover up or wear sun screen, if you're out all day in the winter you are most likely already covered up so no need to worry, if you're out for an hour or less in the summer I would say go without sun screen and let your body get what it needs. (of course this depends on how hot the sun is where you are as well).

Many doctors are now taking on the belief that we aren't getting enough vitamin D because of over use of sun screens (most of which contain harmful carcinogens themselves). Some are even condoning the use of tanning salons/beds in winter months (not what I would recommend) or vitamin D supplements (I take the supplements). When you do use sunblock try to find a zinc oxide based lotion without a lot of additives.

Wow, I had more of an opinion on this than I had thought.
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Old 03-29-08, 03:22 PM   #3
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The heat has nothing to do with it, it's the UV rays. Basically, if you can get sunburned from it, you can have skin cancer issues as well. Probably less common in winter due to reduced amount of light and reduced amount of exposed skin. The only time I ever got sunburned in the winter was once when I was snowshoeing and sun was reflecting off of the snow as well.

There is a correlation between sun exposure and skin cancer, but that doesn't mean you'll never get skin cancer if you don't go in the sun, or that you will get it if you do- you just increase your risk of it.
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Old 03-29-08, 04:38 PM   #4
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Here in Alberta it would be very difficult to get skin cancer from the winter sun!! Most of the winter, the only parts of our skin which might be exposed to the sun would be our cheek bones and maybe our noses, if we don't have them covered with balaclavas and scarves ... and the length of time we're outside is relatively short.

In fact, here in Alberta it is so cold most of the year, not much of our skin gets exposed to the sun. There's usually about a month each year where I'll venture out in shorts and a jersey, and then I'm really only in the sun on the weekends during that month.

As Godwin says, up here, Drs are encouraging people to get out into the sun.

Now it's a whole different story in Australia ... an hour in the sun without sunscreen there, and you're burnt to a crisp (in their fall). This is the Voice of Experience talking ... I had to limit my exposed sun time, when I was there this past February, to about 30 minutes.
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Old 03-29-08, 05:12 PM   #5
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The fact is, the sun on any day of the year can cause changes to the cell structure of the skin that can lead to various forms of cancer, including malignant ones that spread through the body and kill people. To suggest that even in summer the risks are something we worry too much about is errant and dangerous.

The fact also is that skin cancers resulting from sun exposure don't appear overnight. They appear often years after constant exposure has stopped. So people feel confident of remaining in the sun, getting sunburnt or deeply tanned, with no obvious ill effects from cancerous changes to moles and other parts of the skin.

The tanning industry in Victoria, Australia, has almost gone out of business in the past six months after a woman claimed to have contracted skin cancer from using tanning beds. She died, but made sure the world knew of her plight and what she believed caused it beforehand.

The Vitamin D issue has some credence, but more because, I believe, people spend so much time indoors working, or spending their leisure time watching television or playing on computers, rather than occupying themselves with outdoor recreation.

And the exposure requirements to the sun for adequate Vitamin D intake are far less than would result in skin damage that may lead to skin cancer.

The only saving grace about winter sun is that because the earth tilts on its axis, the radiation has to penetrate a thicker layer of the atmosphere, filtering out some of the UV. The days are also shorter. Pollution, such as the thick clouds that hang over cities such as LA also can help, but carry their own health problems.

And just as a little heads up... many, many of the skins cancers that are routinely burned off people are on the nose, cheeks, temples, lips and ears... the very places that continue to be exposed to the sun even in winter. And when there is snow and ice, the sun's radiation is reflected off that as well, intensfying what's already being taken in directly from the sun. Windburn after a day on the snow is not... it is sunburn.

As to the OP's initial observation about the "hot summer sun" and "tanning", people who ride bikes and apply sunscreen are more likely to remain comfortably "cooler" and not perceive the heat of the sun as the day passes.

By the way, have you noticed just how awful those old people with deep, deep tans look because of the wrinkled skin? Old habits die hard and you can expected those wrinkles to have come from skin degradation resulting from sun worship. Chances are there are skin cancers forming there, too.
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Old 03-29-08, 05:13 PM   #6
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Well, there's no safe dose for ionizing radiation, so the risk is not zero, but for all practical purposes, you probably won't have to worry. Our bodies are typically covered in layers of clothing in the winter, and what little is exposed (face, maybe hands) usually maintains a slight tan through the winter - enough to reduce the risk to negligible levels.
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