Arizonans need to protect their skin from UV rays during winter, Valley doctor says

Feb 5, 2024, 4:15 AM | Updated: 2:06 pm

Developing skin cancer during the winter big risk for Arizonans...

A father and son look out over The Grand Canyon from its southern rim following a snow storm that left 3 or more inches of snow throughout the park and shut down roads around it. (Photo by Adam Delgiudice/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(Photo by Adam Delgiudice/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizonans need to know about the risks of developing skin cancer during the winter, one Valley doctor says.

“There’s a common misconception that winter months are less risky for skin cancer,” Miguel Gonzalez-Velez, a medical oncologist specializing in skin cancer and soft tissue cancer, told KTAR News 92.3 FM in January.

However, the biggest risk for skin cancer is UV light, he said.

“Even though they’re stronger during the summer, UV light can affect the skin and can create risk factors at any time of the year,” Gonzalez-Velez said. Regardless of the season or air temperature, UV lights can still damage the skin.

Sun safety tips for Arizonans

To stay safe, practice sun safety measures all year round — even when it’s cloudy. Here are some of the steps he recommends:

– Wearing sunscreen every day and reapplying it often when outside.
– Use different types of clothing, like hats, sunglasses, scarves and long-sleeved clothing.
– Wear sun protective clothing when possible.

Gonzalez-Velez also said people who work indoors all day should follow these tips daily.

“Some of the lights that we have in buildings have some degree of UV light that can create chronic damage to the skin,” he said.

Drinking water is also critical, Gonzalez-Velez said.

“Dehydration can worsen the chronic damage of the sun,” he said. “Also, some people might be taking some medications that increase their sun sensitivity.”

It’s a good idea to speak with healthcare providers to see if certain medications heighten sun vulnerability, he added.

Arizonans should be wary of skin cancer during the winter, doctor says

It’s also important to avoid the sun when it’s at its “highest intensity,” which is usually from around 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Gonzalez-Velez said.

“During the winter in Arizona, people can spend time like in the swimming pool in the jacuzzi going to the lakes or biking, hiking, running,” he said. “All of these activities increased the exposure to the sun.”

Although exercise is good, be aware of sun damage and be strategic about when you go outside, he added.

Even snow comes with a risk of skin damage. Snow can reflect sun rays, as can water, Gonzalez-Velez said. It’s an especially big risk since most snow in Arizona occurs in higher altitudes.

“The sun is actually more dangerous the higher in elevation that you go,” he said. “When you go up into the mountains, you’re more exposed to the sun and the dangerous UV radiation.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Kate Ourada contributed to this story.

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Arizonans need to protect their skin from UV rays during winter, Valley doctor says