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 may spend considerable time exposed to the sun, whether it’s travelling to work, running errands, socializing, or spending time outside.
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 Dermatology Association 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.
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 are properly protected from the sun.
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.
Do you always remember to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s harmful effects?