Summer has officially begun, and while it’s off to a cloudy start here at Save Your Skin in Vancouver, it’s important to remember sun safety during your outdoor activities! Though it is tempting to get a tan during the summer, keep in mind that the Canadian Cancer Society cites exposure to ultraviolet radiation as the greatest risk factor for the development of skin cancer. Melanoma is often a preventable disease, yet it is estimated that in 2017, 7, 200 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer and 74, 000 with non-melanoma skin cancer. That is why it’s essential to keep sun safety in mind if you’re working or playing outside this summer!
If you choose to wear sunscreen, it should have at least SPF 30, with UVA and UVB protection. The high SPF ensures that you will be well protected if you apply every two hours, while UVA and UVB protection shields you from both longer and shorter UV rays, respectively. It is a good idea to reapply more frequently if you are sweating or swimming, as moisture can rinse away sunscreen, and if you are at the beach, as sand can reflect ultraviolet rays. Remember to apply sunscreen to areas which are often forgotten, such as the back of your neck, your ears, the backs of your hands and the tops of your feet. If you are concerned about the chemical compositions of sunscreen, you can stay sun safe with organic sunscreens, which contain zinc oxide as their only active ingredient. They are available at most drug stores. Whatever sunscreen you use, remember to apply it fifteen minutes before leaving the house, so the ingredients have time to be absorbed into your skin!
There are ways to protect yourself from UV rays as an alternative, or in addition, to wearing sunscreen. These include wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes and prevent ocular melanoma, and a hat to shield the top of your head and neck and long sleeved shirts and pants. It is wise to seek shade whenever possible, especially when you don’t have the protection of sunscreen or clothing.
Sun safety is especially important for children. There are links between intermittent and intense sun exposure (resulting in burns) in adolescence and the development of skin cancers later in life, and skin cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canadian youth from 15-35 years old. While it is a good idea to introduce your children to sun safety early, keep in mind that the developing skin of babies is sensitive to both UV damage and the chemicals found in sunscreen. It is therefore best practice to keep babies out of the sun as much as possible.
If you live in a city with inconsistent weather, it is important to be protected even when the sun isn’t shining. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that up to 40% of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can still reach the earth through clouds, so it is important to consider sun safety even when the sky is grey. While we recommend wearing sunscreen every day, check a UV index app if you need convincing; if the UV index is higher than 3, the US Environmental Protection Agency recommends taking full sun safety measures. While we may take it for granted, the skin is our largest organ, and it deserves to be taken care of!
Thanks for reading! On behalf of the The Save Your Skin Foundation, have a great and sun safe summer!