TORONTO- Walk into any store and you’ll find shelves packed tightly with a variety of sunscreens.
While there are many brands, sunscreens work in one of two ways; either reflect or absorb UV radiation. But for it to do the job it has to be applied correctly.
“What we usually recommend is for people to apply it every two hours, to apply it before sun exposure and then re-apply it,” said dermatologist Anatoli Freiman.
A sunscreen with a SPF of 30 is generally recommended and you don’t need to buy special children’s formulas according to Freiman.
Dr. Julia Carroll, the dermatology director at the Medcan Clinic in Toronto, said despite all the public awareness around skin cancer and the need for sun protection, many people still aren’t using enough or any sunscreen.
“There is still that myth of a healthy glow,” said Carroll.
Carroll agrees technically a sunscreen with a SPF of 30 is good enough to protect people from more than 90 per cent of UVB rays, but recommends her clients use an SPF of 50 or 60 and that it be a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen.
“When the lab puts on SPF 30 for testing they do a thick layer. When we put it on in real life, we put on maybe a quarter of what’s being used in the lab. So you’re getting a much lower SPF maybe in the single digits. So we cheat and tell you to put on a higher number,” said Dr. Carroll.
WATCH: Dr. Anatoli Freiman discusses what to look for when choosing the right sunscreen
“You can go as high 110 these days, but it does not make you sort of foolproof and sun proof,” said Freiman “It does not make you sort of immune to the effects of the sun.”
A national working group, including the Canadian Cancer Society and Cancer Care Ontario are working with partners to review research on personal sun protection practices.
With funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research a document will be released in the near future for those working in the area of sun safety and skin cancer prevention.
In May, the Canadian Cancer Society released a report focusing on skin cancer because melanoma rates are increasing more than any other cancer rate.
According to the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation Canadians, those born in the 90’s have a lifetime risk of skin cancer that is two to three times higher than those born in the 60’s.
In Carroll’s 14th floor office in downtown Toronto Lucie Puzzo sits on a bed in a dimly hit office. There’s only one light on in the room supplemented only by a slight glow from a machine near the table.
Danielle Murray, a registered nurse at the clinic, lifts a pen-like device attached to the machine to a mole on Puzzo’s face.
The machine is the Aura Skin Cancer Detection device.
The non-invasive machine was created in British Columbia through a partnership with the BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and the University of British Columbia.
In seconds it can test a lesion and determine if it has a low, medium, or high probability of being cancerous.
Puzzo was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2013 and has a scar the length of a business card on her left forearm.
“I’m now living a very different life,” said Puzzo after her exam.”I avoid peak sun times, I sit in the shade and I wear my sunscreen.”
She says sunscreen is a part of her entire family’s ritual now. She has two daughters and since her cancer diagnosis everyone takes precautions.
Dermatologists say sunscreen should be third in the line of defence against the sun and it’s harmful rays after staying out of the sun and covering up.
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