Holy UV!

  • Dr. Holley   •   Feb 13, 2019

Durango is an awesome place for outdoor enthusiast! The choice of activities are limitless and include biking, hiking, running, backpacking, SUP, and whitewater rafting in the summer, as well as every snow sport you can imagine in the winter. Most locals spend hours each week in the outdoors. Physical activity contributes to overall mental and physical well being and leads to a reduction in medical conditions linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

For all this fun in the outdoors there is also risk. Other that the standard crashes and blisters, when we are outside we expose ourselves to more UV radiation. At Peak Rejuvenation, Dr. Williams and I treat many patients in Durango that have been diagnosed with skin cancer. There are many factors that can lead to skin cancer: lighter skin color, skin that burns easily, blue or green eyes, a family history of skin cancer, or a personal history of skin cancer. Regardless of these risk factors, reducing UV radiation exposure can keep your skin healthy and reduce your chances of getting skin cancer in the future.

Have you ever wondered about our exposure to UV radiation in Durango or if we are exposed to more UV light at our higher elevation? Ultraviolet radiation, or UV, are light wavelengths that are not visible to the human eye. Most UV radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer or is reflected into space. UV light is also reflected from the ground. The reflection of UV light from the surface of water is twice as much as grass, but only one-forth as much as freshly fallen snow. This means on a bluebird powder day you are exposed to 8 times the amount of UV radiation you would experience on a field of grass. Our elevation also increases UV exposure. Due to less ozone and cleaner air at elevation, UV radiation increases by 4-5% for every 1000 feet ascended. Thus, for the same day in June, the amount of UV radiation in Durango, CO is 27% higher than in Scottsdale, AZ. If you are hiking or biking Engineer mountain your UV exposure is 50% higher than Scottsdale. Even worse, with snow on the ground in Durango, your exposure increases to 100%. If you are skiing at the top of Purgatory, your UV radiation exposure is 200% higher than you would receive in Scottsdale!


Sources: wrh.noaa.gov, www.cdc.gov