Sunscreen important even in winter

Whistler Olympian Julia Murray helps spread the word about melanoma prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes - especially when it comes to protecting yourself from melanoma, which is on the rise, according to Annette Cyr, head of the Melanoma Network of Canada.

And while most people know it's important to wear sunscreen and take other precautions during the warm summer months, it seems the same efforts aren't being made during the winter.

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About 70 per cent of Canadians do not know about the requirements to protect themselves from UV rays during the winter months, according toa public opinion poll completed by the Melanoma Network of Canada last year.

"The reflection of ultra violet rays from the sun is eight times stronger on ice than it is on thebeach sand or water - that's an amazing fact," Cyr said.

When you see someone around Whistler with that trademark raccoon goggle tan, it's probably not what most people refer to asa windburn, she said.

"It's actually UV radiation at very intense levels - particularly at high elevations in a snow-covered area,"Cyr said.

While some promising new skin cancer treatments have come to light over the past year, which are still waiting for government approval, there is still not a cure. So, Cyr insisted that prevention is key.

"The concern now is that melanoma is on the rise andit's easier to prevent rather than look for treatment options, which are still very few and far between," Cyr said.

However, if it's caught early, melanoma is one of the more treatable cancers, according to Cyr.

When it comes to prevention, Cyr recommends remembering the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

Ifthere is any mole or abnormality on the skin, ask yourself the following questions: Is it Asymmetrical? What do the Borders look like? What are the Colours of the mole? Is the Diameter bigger than a pencil eraser? And most importantly, has the mole Evolved in size and shape?

Whistler's own Julia Murray knows all about melanoma prevention. The Canadian Olympic freestyle skier has become the spokesperson for the Melanoma Network of Canada, as it is a cause near and dear to her heart.

Murray's father, Crazy Canuck Dave Murray, died from melanoma when he was 37. Murray was only 2 when he died.

"My father didn't know about the dangers atall and now that the ozone layer is depleting, the sun's rays are even stronger todaythan they were in the '70s -soany possible way to promote melanoma protection is important," Murray said.

Murray recommendsapplying sunscreen even when it's snowing or raining.

"There is still sun out there behind a cloud. Not as much, but the sun's rays bounce off the cloud particles and become even stronger - especially on hazy days," she said.

Whether Murray is training in Whistler or competing in a race, she always has a 60 SPF sunscreen on and said it has becomepart of her routine.

"It's close to my heart and it's a scary cancer that can be easily prevented. If we tell people about it and get the awareness out there, the more the better," she said.

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