The summer sun is enticing to outdoor enthusiasts like most of us skiers, but it can be more dangerous than we realize. We all grew up with Mom chasing embarrassingly after us with a bottle of SPF 200, but it turns out Mom was right. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and studies have shown that endurance athletes are at a greater risk due to the extended hours spent in the sun.
It’s easy to dismiss the need for sunscreen when you’re in a hurry, or to decide that the phenomenal tanlines you’ve already developed are dark enough to protect you from further burns, but no matter how dark you get that’s just not true.
Even when the burn isn’t visible, sun damage can still occur. “Tans only minimally protect your skin from further sun damage,” says Dr. Stanley J. Miller, Professor of Dermatology at Johns Hopkins University. “Tanning is a sign of sun exposure and all exposure is damaging in a cumulative fashion.”
“I usually recommend to my patients to use an SPF of 30 or higher,” says Miller. “It’s been shown that most people put sunscreen on much more thinly than is put on when the sunscreen is tested, so most people are only starting with a 10 instead of a 15. Then, if you sweat or swim over the next few hours, your 10 drops to a 6. At this point your protection is inadequate.”
Take it from this irresponsible rollerskier who now has some strange lines and painful burns on her back, sunscreen is a good thing. Plus, who wants a sunglasses and helmet tan? It’s just not attractive.