Sun Safety

SUN SAFETY

The leading cause of melanoma is over exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources. Overexposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) are known to cause harm to the skin, eyes and immune system.1 Between 1996 and 2006, Canadians increased their time in the sun without improving protective behaviours.In addition, melanoma incidence rates have been increasing in Canada and are projected to continue to rise.3

UV FACTS

Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays – UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles, age spots and worse, potentially skin cancer including melanoma. UVB rays are the primary cause of a sunburn.

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Up to 80% of the sun’s rays can penetrate clouds, fog and haze.

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Fresh white snow reflects up to 88% of the sun’s UV rays, almost doubling a person’s UV exposure. Learn more about winter sun safety click here

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Early exposure to tanning beds can increase a person’s chance of developing melanoma by up to 75%.[4] Among those who first used a sunbed before age 35, the risk of melanoma is increased by 59%.[5] Artificial tanning devices emit 15x the amount of UV rays as from sun exposure . WHO, World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer panel have declared ultraviolet radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, to be a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). For more information on tanning beds click here

According to World Health Organization (WHO) 85.4% of melanomas among Canadian men and women ages 30+ years are attributed to UV radiation exposure. https://gco.iarc.fr/causes/uv/

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HOW TO STAY SUN SAFE

SEEK SHADE between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. when UV radiation is at its peak.
WEAR SUN PROTECTIVE CLOTHING that covers as much of your body as possible.
WEAR A BROAD-BRIMMED HAT that shades your face, neck and ears.
WEAR UVA/UVB wrap around SUNGLASSES.
APPLY SPF 50+ broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen generously to clean, dry skin, at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, and re-apply every two hours.
AVOID INDOOR TANNING beds as they increase a person’s chance of developing melanoma by up to 75%.

SEEK SHADE between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. when UV radiation is at its peak.

  • When outside and the Ultraviolet (UV) Index is 3 or higher, there is risk of harm to unprotected skin and eyes.
  • The UV Index regularly reaches 3 and higher between the peak hours of 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (daylight savings time [DST]; 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. standard time), from March to October on sunny and cloudy days.
  • The UV Index regularly reaches 5 and higher between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (DST) from May to August, but rarely exceeds 10 in Canada.
  • Infants, young children and people with fair skin that burns easily are especially vulnerable to UV exposure.
  • Check the weather forecast for the daily UV Index forecast (http://weather.gc.ca).

WEAR SUN PROTECTIVE CLOTHING that covers as much of your body as possible.

  • Choose synthetic fabrics or polyester blends, or look for clothing labels with a high ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number.
  • Lightweight, loose-fitting UV protective clothing can keep you cooler than bare skin in hot weather.
  • Baseball hats do not provide enough protection, covering only the scalp and shading only a small part of the face.
  • Don’t risk developing skin cancer while trying to keep active. When you participate in outdoor sport, cover up as much as possible.
  • If you work outdoors, consider UV protective clothing designed specifically for outdoor workers, which may also keep you cooler.

WEAR A BROAD-BRIMMED HAT that shades your face, neck and ears.

  • Choose hats with a wide brim all around made of tightly woven fabric. Hats should shade your face, ears and the back of your neck.
  • Baseball hats do not provide enough protection, covering only the scalp and shading only a small part of the face.

WEAR UVA/UVB wrap around SUNGLASSES.

Sunglasses that completely shield the eyes protect against a number of eye diseases.

  • Wear close-fitting, wraparound sunglasses or sunglasses with side shields, even if you wear contact lenses, when outside from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (daylight savings time), from March to October.
  • Wear sunglasses any time you are in highly reflective environments, such as on snow, water or sand.

More details

  • Brown-tinted sunglasses generally provide better protection than other tint colours.
  • Prescription sunglasses and sunglasses that fit over your regular non-treated prescription glasses are available.
  • Most modern, non-tinted prescription glasses are treated to provide ultraviolet (UV) protection.
  • In situations where you can’t wear sunglasses, use either prescription or non-prescription (plano) ultraviolet absorbing contact lenses.

APPLY SPF 50+ broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen generously to clean, dry skin, at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, and re-apply every two hours.

Sunscreens must have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 or higher, be broad spectrum and water resistant, and applied with a generous layer on all exposed skin to work effectively.

  • Sunscreens should be used on exposed skin not covered by protective clothing, which offers more effective skin protection.
  • Use a generous amount of sunscreen. Reapply sunscreen based on activity level, immediately after swimming, towelling off or sweating heavily.
  • When choosing a sunscreen, look for one that is:
  • Broad spectrum, protects against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB)
  • SPF 50 or higher
  • Water resistant

More details:

  • Applying sunscreen about 15 minutes before going outside helps your skin to absorb it before exposure, but once outside, it’s not too late to apply.
  • Health Canada recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours.
  • Sunscreens come in a variety of formulations. Find one that suits you best.
  • In Canada, all sunscreens have passed a review by Health Canada and are given a drug identification number (DIN).
  • Reviews of studies of a number of common sunscreen ingredients have not shown that those ingredients, including oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), pose health risks.

AVOID INDOOR TANNING beds as they increase a person’s chance of developing melanoma by up to 75%.

There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan. Exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and UVB radiation from tanning equipment can cause sunburn and eye damage, as well as increase the risk of skin cancer and other UV-related negative health effects.

More details

  • A “base tan” provides little to no protection against sunburn. Any tan or change in skin colour is a sign of skin damage.
  • Tanning is not a safe source of vitamin D. The best way to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D is through taking a vitamin D supplement and including D-rich food sources, such as milk or milk alternatives, such as fortified soy and almond beverages, in your diet.

What does the evidence say?

UV-emitting tanning devices are classified by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). There is sufficient evidence that UV-emitting tanning devices cause cutaneous and ocular melanoma. There is limited evidence that UV-emitting indoor tanning devices cause squamous cell carcinoma.23

The World Health Organization has issued a recommendation against the use of tanning equipment—especially by people under the age of 18.62,63

Are you at risk for skin cancer?

My Cancer IQ risk assessment

Sun Safety Myths

Tackling the sunscreen-related concerns we’ve seen pop up on health blogs recently.

Tanning Beds are Dangerous

In 2009, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified exposure to UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans.

References:

  1. World Health Organization. Health effects of UV radiation [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2013 Jun 17]. Available from: http://www.who.int/uv/health/en/
  2. The Ontario Sun Safety Working Group. Sun exposure and protective behaviours in Ontario: an Ontario report based on the 2006 Second National Sun Survey. Toronto: Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division); 2010.
  3. Canadian Cancer Society’s Steering Committee. Canadian cancer statistics 2013. Toronto: Canadian Cancer Society; 2013.
  4. Zhang M, Qureshi AA, Geller AC, Frazier L, Hunter DJ, Han J. Use of tanning beds and incidence of skin cancer. J Clin Oncol 2012;30(14):1588-93.
  5. Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 12;345:e4757.
  1. International Agency For Research On Cancer. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Volume 100D. A review of human carcinogens. Part D: Radiation. Lyon: IARC Press; 2012.
  2. World Health Organization. Sunbeds, tanning and UV exposure [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2013 Sep 13]. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs287/en/
  3. World Health Organization. Artificial tanning sunbeds: risk and guidance [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2003. Available from: http://www.who.int/uv/publications/sunbedpubl/en/index.html
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