The Olympic Games: Skin Cancer Prevention Hits the Slopes

I can recall watching the winter Olympic games with my parents and my sister, and I was always amazed at the chapped faces of the downhill skiers. It’s something that completely went over my head as a kid. Never did the thought cross my 80s-baby mind that those skiers were as sunburned as the day is long. I know better today. Several skin cancer surgeries and hundreds of precancers later, I realize that the sun is the sun no matter the season. We have just as much chance of scoring some major sun damage in the winter as we do in the summer.

Winter sun protection

Whether you live in the deep south and rarely see a flake of snow and temperatures below 40 degrees, or live in the northwest and are knee-deep in snowdrifts for months at a time, the sun is still a threat to your skin. I can remember one winter day several years ago when our daytime temperatures hit the 70s and I skipped the sunscreen out of sheer laziness. The weather was perfect for working in short sleeves, and I found myself with a pronounced line on my chest where my skin was exposed all afternoon.

The classic red-faced olympian

Our winter Olympians know these lines well. If you have ever seen photos and videos of skiers pulling off their goggles after a run, you have no doubt seen the lines yourself. The sun and the wind do a number on their skin. They are a prime example of the need to protect yourself with sunscreen year-round.

An Olympic partnership worth noting

For months leading up to the Olympics, we start seeing ads and Olympic sponsors everywhere. From McDonald’s and Coca-Cola to Adidas and Visa, the iconic Olympic rings are everywhere. We begin hearing phrases like “official apparel of the Olympic Games” and “choice of Olympians.” That much hasn’t changed over the years, but I started to wonder if things had changed with regard to sun safety.

Where's all the talk about skin cancer?

I was really hoping to discover that skin cancer prevention was finally on the minds of officials. After all, countries around the world are sending the best of the best to compete on the world’s stage. Why would they not protect them in every way? Once I started searching, it didn’t take long to find what I was looking for. As it turns out, in 2020, Dermatone was chosen as the official family of products to protect the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team. Their list of products for extreme environments includes sunscreen. As an added bonus, they have signed on to cover our athletes throughout training and well into the year 2023.1

A change has come

My search for information on the Olympics and skin cancer prevention met a dead end pretty quickly when I tried to reach back into the 80s and 90s. I am not at all surprised. I am glad to see that skin protection, especially during the winter games, has been made a priority. It’s so encouraging to know that advocacy efforts are paying off in a big way and the world may finally be taking some Olympic-sized steps in the right direction.

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