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Sun safety is more important than you think

9 min read
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Did you know?

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Over 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year. About 90% of these are caused by UV rays.

There are two main types of UV rays – UVB and UVA – that can cause damage to the skin and possibly result in skin cancer. While UVB reaches the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis) and causes most sunburns, UVA reaches deeper into the inner layer (the dermis) and is responsible for ageing the skin.

Sun care – Facts vs Myths

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1. Sunscreen is not required when under cover.

Myth: There's a common misconception that shade offers full protection from the sun's harmful UV rays. However, indirect exposure occurs when sunlight reflects off surfaces even when under shade, such as water or sand at the beach. It's challenging to stay fully covered as the sun moves quickly. Hence, applying sunscreen remains essential for complete protection.


2. Sunscreen serves as your primary defense against sunburn

Myth: Sunscreen and sunblock are essential alongside the primary UV protection method: avoidance. Aim to remain indoors during the peak hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., utilize clothing that offers sun protection, such as a broad-brimmed sun hat, and apply sunscreen or sunblock, while seeking shade whenever possible. The Canada Safety Council highlights that up to 70 percent of skin cancer instances can be averted by evading UV ray-induced skin damage.


3. You won't experience sunburn inside a vehicle, behind a window, or beneath a beach umbrella

Myth: You can experience sunburn even while indoors behind glass. Although glass diminishes UV radiation, it doesn't entirely prevent it, so extended exposure in a car or behind a window during high UV conditions can still result in sunburn. Additionally, individuals are often sunburnt in cars with open windows, as they are exposed to heightened levels of UV radiation.

Seeking shade or sheltering under an umbrella is a prudent measure, but it alone may not suffice.


A view of two adults and a child strolling along a beach with a body of water and large rocks shown in the distance, on a sunny day.

4.  Apply sunscreen once daily, and you're all set!

Myth: A single application won't provide protection throughout the entire day. This is due to sunscreen, like makeup, being prone to rubbing off with water, sweat, and contact. Dermatologists advise reapplication at least every two hours or following swimming or perspiration. This practice is crucial, as sunscreen not only washes away but also deteriorates under sunlight, diminishing its effectiveness.


5. Sunscreen may be ineffective or potentially harmful.

Fact: Scientific research supports the effectiveness of sunscreen in shielding against sun damage, lowering the risk of all three skin cancer types: squamous, basal, and melanoma, as well as averting sunburn, premature aging, and other related skin issues.

In Canada, where sunlight exposure varies significantly, sunscreen is vital for safeguarding the population. The Canadian Dermatology Association's study revealed nearly 80,000 new cases of skin cancer annually, making it the nation's most prevalent cancer. Adhering to proper sunscreen application is essential in mitigating these occurrences.

Sun safety tips

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Cover up

Wear dark-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat. When you buy sunglasses, make sure they provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

A rendering of a UV Index scale showing various colours.

Limit your time in the sun

Check the UV index every day, and try to stay in the shade when the index is 3 or more, specially between 11am - 3pm when the sun is at its strongest. If you do go outside, wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

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Use sunscreen properly

Dermatologists recommend reapplying at least every two hours or after swimming or sweating. This step is important. Not only will it wash off, it actually breaks down in sunlight which lessens effectiveness.

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Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of cool liquids (specially water) before you feel thirsty. 

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Examine your skin often

When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent%

See your doctor right away if you notice any of the following:
abnormally dark or discoloured patches or spots
bleeding, crusting or change in the colour, size or shape of a mole



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