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Hot topic: Winter sunburn

Your guide to enjoying the snowballs – and avoiding sunburn



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The arrival of snow conjures up postcard-worthy scenes of children running up hills with their wooden sleighs, bundled up in scarves and bobble hats. But amid all the fun and frolics, there's a serious health message. More than 90 per cent of skin cancer causes are linked with sun-related damage, which can strike just as easily on a half-term holiday to the Alps as the Algarve.

This is because the UV rays responsible for sunburn, which genetically damages the skin cells and can lead to cancer, do not feel warm and snow can exacerbate their effect. "Snow reflects up to 80 per cent of the UV light from the sun, meaning that you are often hit by the same rays twice," explains Perry Robins, of the Skin Cancer Foundation. the risk increases depending on the type of snow, with fresh falls reflecting as much as 94 per cent, compared to just two to four per cent by snow-free land.

If your family does venture to the slopes, UV radiation increases by four to five per cent every extra 1,000ft above sea level you go, but you still need to be vigilant at home. The way skin is treated in the first 21 years of life is crucial. Always use a sunscreen of SPF30 or higher and make sure your child takes a snowball break to reapply suncream to their faces regularly, as strong wind and snow can deplete cover.

Although much has been reported on vitamin D deficiencies, with half of Brits said to have sub-optimal levels, a little exposure to sunlight is sufficient. "No one advocates complete avoidance of the sun - just cautious exposure," says consultant dermatologist Dr Sandeep Cliff. So, as long as you don't burn, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!


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