Most men do not use sunscreen, which can potentially heighten their risk of developing skin cancer from winter sun exposure, according to survey results released Wednesday.

A survey by the Melanoma Network of Canada found that only four percent of men wear sunscreen in the winter. Men are less likely than women to identify melanoma as skin cancer, 80 percent compared to 86 percent, wear sunscreen in all situations, regardless of the season, and consider environmental effects as factors in changing the intensity of UV rays.

MNC notes ninety per cent of melanomas, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to UV radiation from light and sunlight.

MNC says winter conditions create a particularly advantageous environment for intensifying UV radiation as snow reflects as much as 80 per cent of UV radiation, which is much higher than the amount reflected by water or dry beach sand, 10 percent and 15 percent, even in the summer.

Over exposure to winter sun is dangerous because UV radiation can't be seen or felt, says Annette Cyr, chair of the Melanoma Network of Canada. UV radiation levels are influenced by the sun's elevation, cloud cover, altitude and reflection - not temperature of the air, which means that sunscreen is required year-round. If skin is left unprotected, the risk of melanoma increases.

While the incidences of melanoma have more than tripled over the last thirty years and continue to increase, it is the second most common cancer in young adults aged 18-34, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

According to the Canadian Cancer Registry Database at Statistics Canada, the lifetime risk of melanoma for men is higher than in women and that men will account for 56 per cent of all new cases of melanoma this year and 62 per cent of deaths.

Melanoma Network Canada outlined winter sun safety tips below.

  • Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on all exposed areas, and apply just before going outside.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after excessive sweating.
  • Protect yourself with clothing, a hat with a brim, and sunglasses year-round.
  • Check your skin monthly to detect malignant melanoma early.