Stay sun safe on your winter break

Stay sun safe on your winter break

Don’t forget your sunscreen that’s the message from the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland to those heading off on a winter break.

At this time of year many people will be flying off to catch some winter rays or hitting the ski slopes, but it’s important to stay safe in the sun, even during winter.

Denise McCallion, Senior Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Officer at the PHA, said: Many people forget to pack sunscreen when going on a winter holiday. People may not be aware of the risk of sunburn during winter months but it is important to take steps to protect your skin. The sun can cause permanent damage to our skin at any time of the year.

Just one episode of sunburn, especially in childhood, can double the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

It is easy to associate winter with frostbite and windburn, but most people are unaware that UV rays can be damaging for winter holidaymakers too whether heading to the piste or the playa, it is important to take steps to reduce the risk of sunburn, added Denise.

Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy Co-ordinator at Cancer Focus NI, said: Over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause serious damage over time, and can increase your risk of skin cancer. We need to be aware of when we’re at risk of over-exposure to UV, and how to protect ourselves. UV levels vary with the weather conditions and the time of day, but when the UV index is three or above we need to protect our skin and eyes.

And you don’t need to be sunbathing to get skin cancer. UV radiation from the sun can cause skin damage, even on cloudy days. Both snow and water reflect the sun’s rays, and the higher altitude of ski resorts means increased intensity of UV radiation. So in snow conditions it is best to take extra precautions and protect skin from the winds and winter sun as well as wearing sunglasses.

Top tips

  • Know the UV index and if it is three or more protect your skin and eyes. UV forecasts for UK and worldwide locations are available via the Met Office weather app through
  • Seek shade and avoid prolonged exposure when the UV levels are highest generally 11am to 3pm;
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat that protect against UV rays;
  • Use sunscreen and lip balm with a minimum SPF of 15 for UVB protection and 4 star for UVA protection. Apply liberally 30 minutes before going out and don’t forget your head, neck and ears. Re-apply at least every two hours;
  • Check regularly for any changes to your skin.


If you are concerned about any aspect of cancer call the Cancer Focus NI free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the nurses on [email protected] You can also visit the websites orĀ

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