Too many Canadians are choosing not to wear sunscreen, leading to higher skin cancer rates particularly among young people and children, says the Canadian Cancer Society.

"It's not uncommon for us to see people in their thirties with melanoma now," said Dr. Beatrice Wang, director of the melanoma clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.

Skin cancer can kill

Though the majority of people with melanoma are in their fifties, experts are more concerned about the risky trends they've noticed in younger people. 

In addition to the fact that young skin is thinner and more susceptible to UV penetration, Wang said many people in their twenties and thirties just aren't using sunscreen.

Each year, approximately 5,000 Canadians are diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, leading to 1,500 deaths, she said.

The society expects more than 80,000 skin cancer cases in Canada this year, nearly the same as the top four cancers combined, namely lung, breast, prostate and colorectal.

Sunscreen tips

Here are some tips from Wang on how to protect your skin from sun damage:

  • Wear sunscreen every day, no matter what the weather looks like
  • Opt for a minimum SPF of 60 for long periods in the sun (SPF 30 in the shade)
  • Protection is especially important when the sun's rays are strongest, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Apply a minimum of one teaspoon to the face
  • Look for brands that have the Canadian Dermatology Association logo
  • For sensitive skin, use a sunscreen with more zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
  • Since no sunscreen is 100 per cent effective, wear a hat and sunglasses to minimize direct sun exposure

To hear the full interview with Dr. Beatrice Wang, listen to the audio labelled: Skin cancer rates on the rise