Summer—it’s the time of year everyone looks forward to. Over the spring and summer, we spend more time in the sun, making it crucial to practice sun safety every day.
Basking in the sun may be relaxing and fun, but it also poses a threat to your skin’s health. The sun emits two types of UV radiation—UVA, which causes ageing and wrinkling, and UVB, which causes burning. Both UVA and UVB rays are undetectable to a person sitting in the sun; however, even on cloudy days, the radiation from both can be damaging, increasing your risk for developing skin cancer.
Know before you go
Sunscreen, like food, has an expiration date. When sunscreen ages, the active ingredients break down, making older sunscreen less effective at blocking harmful UV rays. It’s also important to look out for the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) logo when purchasing sunscreen.The CDA Expert Advisory Board identifies safe and effective sunscreen products with an SPF of 30 or higher that are non-irritating and hypoallergenic, minimally or non-perfumed, and non-comedogenic.
Dare to prepare
Whether planning a few hours outside or spending a weekend away at the beach, it is essential to pack with sun safety in mind. Protective clothing—long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, tightly woven fabric—reduces the amount of skin exposed to UV rays. From late spring to early fall, the sun’s rays are strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., increasing the risk of sunburn. When planning outdoor activities, consider limiting the amount of time spent in the sun—especially during peak hours.
Stay before you play
Make sure you wait before jumping in the water or heading out into the sun. Sunscreen needs time to “set” before being effective, allowing ingredients to bind fully to the skin. Apply sunscreen a minimum of 15 minutes before being exposed to the sun, or jumping in the water. Reapply every two hours or following strenuous exercise, swimming, or towelling off. For full protection, apply approximately 1 oz. of sunscreen every time.
Check the skin you are in
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Exposure to sudden, short bursts of sunlight increases susceptibility to skin cancer. Although people with red or blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin and freckles are considered to be at a “higher risk,” the truth is that melanoma can strike anyone. Keep an eye out for any new moles or spots, and watch for any existing areas that grow or change significantly. Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or do not heal, can also be warning signs of something more serious. When doing a self-examination, use a hand-held mirror and inspect areas you may not usually see, including underarms, neck, scalp, palms, and toes.
Avoiding excessive sun exposure is the best way to protect yourself from sun damage and skin cancer. Routinely inspect your skin for any changes and, if you suspect that a spot on your skin is new or has changed colour or appearance, see a doctor.
For more information on skin cancer and the importance of sun safety, visit dermatology.ca.