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Ski resort employees take advantage of free skin cancer screenings

PARK CITY – People who work outdoors, particularly on the ski slopes, are at an increased risk of developing skin cancers. That’s why Deer Valley and Snowbird ski resorts are offering free skin cancer screenings to their employees.

Some may think sunburn and sun damage only occurs in the summer, but dermatologists say people who spend a lot of time on the slopes during the winter, particularly ski resort employees, can be at even greater risk for skin cancers.

“Ski areas are a very high UV place. The big risk factor here is elevation, reflection off the snow, and then days like today, which are very sunny days,” said Chris Hull, Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Utah.

Hull works with the Huntsman Cancer Institute in a program called “Sun Safe on the Slopes.”

They offer free skin cancer screenings to employees at Deer Valley and Snowbird ski resorts.

“We've done that yearly for six years, and have screened after today about 440,” Hull said.

At Deer Valley Resort on Friday, employees took advantage of the free service.

“Close to 10 percent of people that come in for a random screening have been referred for further evaluation for suspected skin cancer,” Hull said.

One out of 10 people who work at ski resorts are at risk of developing skin cancer. With rates of melanoma on the rise, it’s important to educate workers.

“Early detection is very important as far as treatment and long-term prognosis," said Dan Steffen.

Steffen is a ski instructor at Deer Valley. He knows firsthand how important it is to get screened for skin cancer, as he was diagnosed with melanoma in 2005 and then again last summer.

“Lo and behold, about a month after my hip surgery, I developed a lump on the back of my head," Steffen said. "They did a biopsy on it and determined too it was melanoma."

Steffen helped bring the screenings to his workplace and said he applauds the resort for taking necessary precautions.

“Deer Valley has been really good about providing a gator, long-sleeve shirts, hats: all the necessary things to protect themselves,” Steffen said. “Ski resorts, it's not just an employee picking up a paycheck, you've got to protect your asset.”

Steffen says they are trying to get more ski resorts on board with the skin cancer screenings. They’ve reached out to the National Ski Association, which he said has shown some interest in the idea.