“A recent initiative by the Huntsman Cancer Institute and University of Utah Health screened 394 ski resort employees at two Utah ski resorts. They diagnosed 38 workers — nearly 10 percent — with skin cancer, recommended biopsies for 20 percent and referred more than a third for further evaluation.”
Very sobering data from a recent study by the Huntsman Cancer Institute and University of Utah Health considering nationwide melanoma occurs in 0.2 percent of people, while non-melanoma cancers affect about 1 percent of the population.
“If you look at our data, it’s pretty alarming. It’s definitely not a minor thing.”-Dr. Christopher Hull
The Bulletin reports the numbers don’t represent a random sampling of the employees because testing was voluntary and workers who were already suspicious about spots on their skin were more likely to sign up. However 41% of those screened said they wouldn’t have otherwise seen a doctor to have their skin checked.
“It was first come, first serve. We had bakers and indoor hotel employees. But most of them, when they’re not working, they’re probably skiing, and when they’re not skiing, they’re probably hiking or biking.” -Dr. Christopher Hull
Chair of dermatology at Oregon Health & Sciences University and director of the Melanoma Research Program at the Knight Cancer Center, Dr. Sancy Leachman, warns of the effect high elevation outdoor work can have:
“We know that both UVA and UVB are important probably for melanoma, but UVB is the one that’s really implicated for the nonmelanoma skin cancers. People who work outdoors a lot … that is increasing your risk.
It’s basically like little photons coming down from the sun like little bullets. It’s like Russian roulette. Did they hit the DNA in the right cell at the right time, and it stuck and it caused a mutation? And if so, how many mutations has that cell gotten?
But if you’re at a higher elevation … instead of shooting with a rifle, it’s like shooting with a machine gun. You’re getting a lot more DNA damage per minute you’re outdoors.”
A useful rule of thumb when thinking of sun exposure in the mountains is that UV radiation increases 6 percent for every thousand feet of elevation gain. Also you should take into account that light reflecting off the snow increases the exposure further.
So please all you lifties, patrollers, mountain ops, and all the other people that work so hard to keep our ski resorts running smoothly….cover up, wear sunscreen and reapply often.