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Facts about Sun Safety

We’re lucky to live in British Columbia, where there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy year-round. But all that time in the fresh air can also lead to an unintended consequence, and that’s overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. Although we think that having a tan is associated with healthy times spent outside, the truth is that changes in skin colour actually represent damage to the skin. And that damage gets worse over time. That healthy glow you got this summer at the lake? Unfortunately, that results in most of the visible consequences of skin damage, spots, wrinkles, sagging skin, and other signs of aging that can make you look much older than your years.

There are several different kinds of skin cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are the most common kind. Over 90 percent of these cancers are associated with unsafe sun exposure. Melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer. If not treated, it can lead to death, but if caught early the cure rate is much higher. British Columbia’s rates of melanoma are the highest in Canada and, sometimes, even very young people can get melanoma. You can read about one young British Columbian’s struggle with melanoma here.

The best ways to minimize your risk of skin cancer is to protect yourself from the sun. That means wearing long sleeves and a hat, finding shade, especially during the hottest part of the day from 11 am to 3 pm, and wearing SPF 30+ sunscreen.

Hi5 Ways to Stay Sun Safe

  • Get it checked. If you see a blemish or spot on your skin that looks suspicious, talk to your doctor. You can see more about what skin cancer looks like here. It’s not pretty.
  • Stay out of bed. The tanning bed, that is. There is no safe level of tanning with sunbeds or sunlamps. They can cause damage that leads to skin cancer. The Canadian Cancer Agency has a few things to share about indoor tanning.
  • Fake Bake. If you want to have the appearance of a tan, use a self-tanning lotion or spray. But remember, self-tanning lotion won’t protect you from the sun – you still need to cover your skin outdoors. Read more aboutsunless tanner.
  • Get your D. You might have heard that protecting yourself from the sun can mean you don’t get enough Vitamin D. Not true! You can get the Vitamin D you need through foods and ‘possibly’ supplements. Find out more about Vitamin D and how to make sure you have enough.
  • Watch it in winter. It’s the same sun in winter as in summer, and it still has UV rays that can cause skin damage. If you’re skiing or just spending time outdoors in the snow, continue to protect yourself with goggles, headwear, and SPF 30+ sunscreen.