While it is important to enjoy outdoor activities as part of a healthy active lifestyle, it is equally important to practice sun safety. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and/or tanning beds can damage the skin and eyes, and can lead to:
- Skin cancer
- Sun burns
- Skin damage (e.g. wrinkles, premature aging)
- Eye damage
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada. UV rays are the main risk factor for skin cancer. While everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer, it is one of the most preventable cancers.
Enjoy the sun safely and reduce your risk of skin cancer by practicing sun safe behaviours all year long. Consider these general sun safety tips:
- Consider the time of day. If you can, limit time in the sun when the UV index is 3 or higher, usually between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Seek shade or make shade by using an umbrella, a UV protective tent, or pop-up shade shelter.
- Cover up. Wear UV-protective clothing, or clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Wear a wide brimmed hat or a baseball cap with flaps that cover the head, neck, and ears.
- Wear sunscreen. Apply plenty of sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, and ensure the sunscreen is labelled ‘broad spectrum’ and ‘water resistant’. Reapply when needed, especially after swimming, sweating, or toweling. Use a lip balm that contains SPF.
- Wear sunglasses. Wear close fitting/wrap-around sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% UV protection.
- Seek vitamin D elsewhere. Exposing yourself to UV rays is not the best way to meet vitamin D needs, and may result in unnecessary skin damage.
- Avoid tanning beds, which are a source of UV radiation. Using tanning beds before the age of 35 and frequent use, increases your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Know Your Skin.
To help protect yourself, it is important to know your skin. Most skin cancers can be treated if caught early enough. Check your skin regularly so you can detect any changes.
- Know the location, colour, shape, and size of birthmarks/moles
- Look for new growths on your skin
- A sore that does not heal
When you check your skin, follow the ABCDEs of early detection:
If you notice any of the above, have a skin exam done by a doctor or other trained healthcare professional to tell you if the changes are normal or not.