Sun Safety is Critical Especially for Ski Resort Employees

10% of those screened in past 5 years had suspected skin cancer

DEER VALLEY, Utah (HUNTSMAN CANCER INSTITUTE) -- Here in Utah, sun safety is important even in winter as many people head up to the slopes at high elevations in the sun. Guests of outdoor recreation resorts have been found to be at high risk for exposure to UV radiation.

But another group of people also faces a potentially higher risk than the average population, the ski resort employees who work on the slopes and are out in the sun constantly. They may face an increased risk for skin cancer because of their cumulative sun exposure during peak hours at high altitudes and UV reflection from the snow. Add to that the fact that Utah has the highest incidence rate of melanoma in the country and there is a serious need to address this problem.

Several years ago the Huntsman Cancer Institute created a program called "Sun Safe on the Slopes" where we go to local ski resorts (Deer Valley & Snowbird) and offer free skin cancer screenings to employees there. (9 cancer screenings have been held in the last 5 years.)

Doctors can't stress enough about protecting against the sun and especially for ski instructors. 

Dr. Chris Hull, Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Utah, "It's because we are at a higher elevation and reflection off the snow the UV levels are elevated  a lot more compared to the valley."

Dan Steffen has been a ski instructor at Deer Valley for 23 years.  He's living with Melanoma and helped bring the free screenings to Deer Valley and Snowbird.

"Since my incident of melanoma, I put it on as a second thing in the morning after putting on a shirt the sunscreen goes on. The higher the better."

Since 2011, we have kept records from these events. 38 presumed skin cancers were diagnosed out of a total of 394 participants (That's an alarming 9.6% of the participants). 41% of participants indicated they wouldn't have seen a physician for their skin if they hadn't participated in this free screening. So the program is obviously catching problems that may not have been caught otherwise. We feel like this is an at-risk population with health concerns not previously being addressed. We are hoping to reach them through the outreach efforts of the program.

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