Staying safe in the sun this summer

June 15, 2018

As we welcome the rising temperatures, sun safety often becomes top-of-mind. While sun protection and skin surveillance should be done all year round, the long, hot days of summer offer a natural opportunity for people to get into a good skin safety routine.

Skin cancer is the most common form of all human cancers. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer, but UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful.

“While basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, the much more dangerous melanoma is now one of the most rapidly rising cancers,” says Dr. Ernst, Medical Oncologist at London Health Sciences Centre’s London Regional Cancer Program. “Last year there were over 7,000 new cases in Canada. While genetics plays a significant role in development of melanoma, intermittent and chronic sun exposure is an important risk factor for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. There are a lot of simple, practical things that people can do to protect themselves and reduce their risk of developing skin cancers.”

Practical sun safety tips that should be applied year-round include:

  • Limit exposure to the sun, especially during the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wear a hat and protective clothing
  • Use sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 on all exposed skin
  • Sunscreen should be reapplied every couple hours or following exposure to water or excessive sweating

It’s important to note that all skin types are vulnerable to sun damage. Sun damage can and does occur without the presence of sunburn.

In addition to sun protection, skin surveillance is an important practice that people should adopt. People should regularly monitor their skin, including their backs, and check for any additions or changes in birthmarks, beauty marks, moles, etc. Even subtle changes in size, shape or colour can be a sign of a problem and should be brought to the attention of your doctor.

Dr. Ernst adds, “Even though exposure to sunlight during the winter months provides the same risk, this is an ideal time of year to remind people of the critical importance of sun protection and skin surveillance. It’s the time of year when many people spend more time outdoors. Although skin never forgets, it’s never too late to begin to practice safe sun habits.”

The skin multidisciplinary clinic at LHSC, which runs weekly, provides diagnosis, care, and treatment for patients with common, rare, and complex skin and melanoma cancers.