Did you know that skin cancer is now the most common type of cancer in Canada? The Government of Canada reports that one-third of all new cancer diagnoses are skin cancers “and the rate continues to rise.”
As a busy caregiver, you probably spend part of your day outdoors, whether it’s travelling to work, running errands, socializing, or spending time outside with the person in your care. While outside, you’re exposed to cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.
How can we enjoy spending time outside without getting burned by the sun’s harmful effects?
Slather on the sunscreen
Sunscreen is the best way to protect your skin against the sun’s rays for those days when you and/or the person in your care are outside. There are three types of UV radiation from the sun:
- UVA – Think of “aging” when you see this abbreviation. UVA radiation penetrates deeper into our skin, causing immediate tanning, premature aging, wrinkles, and certain types of skin cancers.
- UVB – The B in this type of ultraviolet radiation may as well stand for “burning” because it is responsible for causing delayed tanning effects, sunburns, and most skin cancers.
- UVC – While this type of radiation is very dangerous to all lifeforms, it is filtered out by the ozone layer long before it reaches the earth.
The Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that we look for a sunscreen that contains at least 30 SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and the words “broad spectrum,” meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB radiation.
Don’t skimp on the sunscreen! It should form a visible film on the skin when first applied, even on your face. Sunscreen should be applied over your facial moisturizer and under makeup. Make sure to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you or the person in your care leaves the house, to give it time to absorb into your skin so it will protect you from the sun.
Continue to stay protected by reapplying sunscreen every two hours and every time after swimming or perspiring.
Be fashionably sun-smart
In addition to sunscreen, wearing clothing that covers up as much exposed skin as possible, while still remaining comfortable, is key to good sun protection but you also have to be practical about choosing outfits that suit your purposes.
For example, a business suit covers up most of your body and therefore provides maximum coverage from the sun, but it’s not exactly practical for a day at the beach. A long-sleeved shirt made from linen, which is a tightly woven, lightweight fabric, will keep you feeling cool, provide sun coverage, and is beach-appropriate. Visit the Skin Cancer Foundation website for more information on sun-safe clothing.
Add a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses (opt for one that provides 100 per cent protection against broad spectrum protection against UV rays) and you’re all set!
Check the UV Index forecast
The UV Index was developed by scientists at Environment Canada in 1992 to inform Canadians each day about the strength of the sun’s UV radiation. The UV Index was internationally accepted and standardized by the World Health Organization in 1994.
The rating scale of the UV Index is:
- 0-2 Low risk – Wear sunglasses and sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors for more than one hour.
- 3-5 Moderate – In addition to sunglasses and sunscreen, wear more protective clothing such as a hat and a long-sleeved shirt if you’re going to be outside for 30 minutes or more.
- 6-7 High – The risk of skin damage and sunburn are high so make sure to cover up, apply a strong sunscreen, and seek shade and/or reduce your time in the sun, especially between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- 8-10 Very high – UV radiation is very high so extra sun protection is required to avoid skin damage and sunburn. Avoid the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and take extra precautions by seeking shade, covering up, and applying (and reapplying) a strong sunscreen throughout the day.
- 11+ Extreme – Avoid the sun, or better yet, remain indoors between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you must go outside, take all above precautions.
You can find the UV index for your area through local radio stations, TV news channels, weather reports, newspapers, mobile apps, and the Internet. Try to check the index each day before heading out to ensure that you, or the person in your care, are properly protected from the sun.
Learn more about the UV Index on the Government of Canada website.
Sun protection all year long
Even though the UV Index falls at certain times of the year, it’s important for everyone to protect their skin from the sun at all times. What can you do each season to protect yourself and those you care about throughout the year from harmful UV rays?
- Summer – Take all of the above sun safety precautions during the summer months. The sun is strongest during at this time so be extra careful when doing outdoor activities between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Fall – The UV Index can be high in early September but quickly decreases by October and should be of little concern until it starts to snow.
- Winter – While the UV Index is very low in Canada during winter, the bright white snow can actually double your exposure to UV rays. Take extra precautions when doing outdoor winter activities like skiing in the mountains because the elevation and snowy surfaces will expose you to more UV rays.
- Spring – As temperatures begin to rise, so too does the UV Index in Canada at this time. Start to think about ramping up your sun protection routine as early as April.
The Government of Canada has more information about sun safety throughout the seasons, as well as at school and in the community. Visit their website to learn more.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.