How to stay safe in the sun
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada and skin cancer rates are on the rise. Over the past five decades, Manitoba has seen a large increase in the number of people diagnosed with skin cancer.
Skin cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers. 50-90% of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, which means that more than half of skin cancers can be prevented.
Sources of UV light (UV) are sun and UV-emitting devices, e.g., tanning beds. UV causes skin cancer and other forms of skin damage (e.g., wrinkling and photoaging of the skin) and causes harm to the eyes. Both UVA and UVB are damaging to skin and eyes.
While UV that is harmful to the skin is primarily present in the sun's rays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. between April and September in Canada, UV that is harmful to the eyes is present in the sun's rays all year round and throughout the day. In both cases, UV can be harmful, even when it's cloudy.
You can reduce your risk of skin cancer and other sun/UV damage by following these easy steps:
- When the UV Index is 3 or higher, protect your skin as much as possible.
- Seek shade.
- Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible and a wide-brimmed hat.
- When possible, plan outdoor activities for before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m. between April and September.
- Use sunscreen labelled "broad spectrum" and "water-resistant" with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on skin not covered by clothing. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply when required.
- Under normal daylight conditions, wear sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses with UV-protective lenses when outdoors all year round.
- Don't use UV tanning equipment or deliberately try to get a suntan, and avoid getting a sunburn. Any change to your skin's natural colour from the sun is a sign that damage has occurred.
Use sources of vitamin D that are safer than UV exposure, e.g., dietary sources, including fortified foods, and vitamin D supplements. Intentional UV exposure to meet vitamin D requirements is not recommended.
- Good-quality shade includes dense vegetation and covered structures that offer shade from the side, and not just overhead, to protect against scattered UV.
- As a general guide, wider and denser sources of shade provide increased sun protection.
- Additional personal protection (clothes, sunglasses, sunscreen) is recommended under shade to protect against scattered UV, especially on high UV Index days.
- Hats should shade the head, face, ears and back of the neck with a wide brim. A wide-brimmed hat can offer added protection for your eyes.
- Tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing is recommended.
- Combine sunscreen with hats, sunglasses and shade when possible.
- Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin. Consider using sunscreen for the lips (e.g., sunscreen lip balm), as well.
- Use a generous amount of sunscreen (e.g., the average adult requires approximately 2-3 tablespoons of lotion-formulated sunscreen to cover the whole body, and a teaspoon to cover the face and neck).
- Reapply after swimming, strenuous exercise or towelling off.
- Use sunscreen that says on the label:
- "Broad spectrum" (UVA and UVB protection)
- "SPF 30" or higher
- "Water resistant"
The Canadian Dermatology Association logo appears of sunscreens that have been tested for safety and effectiveness.
For more info: http://www.dermatology.ca/programs-resources/programs/spp/
- The best UV protection is offered by close-fitting wraparound sunglasses.
- Look for sunglasses or prescription lenses with full UVA and UVB protection. Examples of appropriate labels are "UV400" or "100% UV protection."
- Contact lenses, even those with UV protection, do not provide full coverage for the eye and the skin around the eye.
If you have any questions about sun/UV safety, please contact CancerCare Manitoba's sun/UV safety coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org