With summer in full swing, British Columbians are quick to get outside and bask in warm sun rays that for just a short few months aren’t met with wet conditions.
But a majority of sun bathers, beach goers and nature enthusiasts are forgetting one integral step before heading outside: sunscreen. In fact, 60 per cent of adults in North America surveyed by Statistics Canada said that they don’t use sunscreen. It’s no surprise, then, that 37 per cent reported getting at least one sunburn during the summer.
A history of severe sunburns increase the chances for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. In 2017, 7,200 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma while 1,250 died.
So why don’t people take sun protection seriously, if they know the risks can be problematic if not deadly?
Dr. Beth Donaldson with Copeman Healthcare Centre said a strong possibility is due to the misguided myth that if someone doesn’t burn then they don’t need to protect themselves from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
“That’s so far from the truth. A burn is definitely worse, but any kind of exposure can definitely increase your risk of skin cancer,” she told Black Press Media.
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“The most obvious thing to do is wear a long sleeve, wear a hat and stay in the shade.”
People are constantly being exposed to UV rays or reflective sun, Donaldson said, whether while walking to work, or for lunch or while driving. That means that sunscreen is a must – and it’s not a product people should be stingy with.
“You have to use a lot, like a shot glass worth for your whole body, if you’re going to be at a pool with a bathing suit on,” Donaldson said. “And you have to reapply it every two hours even if you have not been swimming or sweating, you have to be on it.”
Although some skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma or other non-melanoma cancers can be “easily fixable” by minor surgeries or through a doctor using liquid nitrogen, Donaldson said that sometimes these can go missed and quickly turn serious.
“Then the problem with melanoma, is it’s really hard to detect,” she said. “It’s not always a big, ugly mole it can sometimes just be very blended and unfortunate and that can kill you.”
Anecdotally, Donaldson suspects its those aged 20 to 25 whose parents may not have made sun protection a priority when they were younger and are now not worrying about the risk of sun damage as young adults.
“But if there’s something you can prevent by simply putting on even an SPF 30, it’s better than nothing,” she said.