Now that summer is in full swing, many Manitobans are taking advantage of the great outdoors — especially after months of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The novel coronavirus, however, isn’t the only hazard people need to watch out for this summer. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun cause over 4,000 new cases of skin cancer nationwide each year.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Elizabeth Holmes told 680 CJOB that regardless of which type of sunscreen you choose, it’s important to be protected if you’re spending time in the sun.
“SPF is rating the strength of the ability of your sunscreen to protect you from the sun,” she said.
“SPF 15 blocks about 93 per cent of the UV rays. A sunscreen of SPF 30 blocks about 97 per cent. SPF 50 is only about 98 per cent, so a small additional protection.
“What’s really most important is to ensure that you apply it properly and evenly and reapply throughout the day. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends an SPF of 30 or more.”
Holmes said a single application of suncreen when you head out, however, isn’t likely to be enough — you should reapply at least every couple of hours.
“Because it’s hot out, look for a sunscreen that is water-resistant. That helps with the sweating a little bit,” she said.
“The sunscreens that are water-resistant only work for about 40-80 minutes, so if you do find that you are sweating or have gone swimming or towelling off… then you may need to reapply every 40 to 80 minutes.”
Holmes said there’s no one sunscreen that’s better than the others. A lot of it comes down to personal preference and finding a formulation that works for you, and that you’ll be comfortable applying thoroughly.
You can, however, look for a DIN or NPN number on the bottle, which means it’s been approved by Health Canada.
And it’s not just the super-sunny days that can be a threat.
“You need to still practice sun safety on cloudy days… even if you can’t see it through the clouds, UV rays are still out there,” she said.
“If you’re going out, you’re going to be in your car, you’re going to be outside… just start your day by putting sunscreen on.”
According to CancerCare Manitoba, there are a number of steps Manitobans can take — in addition to sunscreen — to reduce their risk of skin cancer while still enjoying the outdoors.
Seeking shade, wearing clothing that covers as much skin as possible, sporting sunglasses with UV lenses, and finding alternate (i.e. non-sun) sources of vitamin D are all positive steps.
“Rates are rising across the country, but there is good news,” the organization says on its ‘Be Sun Safe‘ resource.
“Although exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light cause 50-90 per cent of skin cancers, those numbers also mean that skin cancers are one of the most preventable.
“Sources of UV light include the sun and UV-emitting appliances such as tanning beds. UVA rays are associated more with wrinkles and skin aging, while UVB rays are linked to sunburn. Both types of rays damage the skin and are harmful to the eyes.”