Practicing safe sun: new Canadian guidelines
'We're really wanting to raise awareness that clothing is going to protect you better than anything'
The summer weather is finally here with field trips, beach days, working around the yard — and maybe, the first sunburn of the season.
This weekend wraps up Sun Safety Awareness Week in Canada, and getting out the message about skin cancer is especially important P.E.I., according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
That's because P.E.I. has the highest rates of melanoma in the country. Island men in particular are at risk — twice as many get melanoma as the national average. Skin cancer one of the only cancers that remains on the rise, where others are on the decline.
This week the society announced new national guidelines on how to practice safe sun — it's the first time in 20 years dermatologists and cancer groups have agreed to a single set of rules.
"There's a few key changes," said Lori Barker of the Cancer Society's P.E.I. division, in Charlottetown.
1. Check the day's UV index
The first is to check the UV index for the day and be aware of what precautions need to be taken, especially if the rating is three or over, Barker said.
"Exposure to UV is the leading cause of melanoma skin cancers," said Barker. "So to be able to protect yourself from that significantly reduces your risk."
Even if it's cool when you leave the house in the morning, remember to check the day's UV forecast and bring along appropriate clothing to cover up.
2. Clothing is best
Another important change to guidelines is that clothing is better — reach for a shirt before the sunscreen.
"So we talk a lot about sunscreen but we're really wanting to raise awareness that clothing is going to protect you better than anything," Barker said, noting tightly-woven fabric is best and there is special UV-protection clothing you can buy.
3. The higher the better
In the past, the cancer society and doctors have recommended Canadians wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF, or sun protection factor, of 15.
That's changed — now, they're recommending people use a minimum of SPF 30 or more.
Remember to reapply several times throughout the day.
4. Peak time
Peak time for sunburns has changed too — by an hour. Where people were previously warned to stay out of the sun from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., peak hours are now 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wear a hat, sunglasses and use a lip balm with at least SPF 15.
6. No indoor tanning beds
"Never use indoor tanning beds," warns Barker. "That exposure can be five times the maximum intensity of what you'd get in the afternoon."
7. Seek shade
Under a tree, umbrella or roof — seek shade throughout the day.
"There's other ways you can get vitamin D that's healthier, and through food sources," asserts Barker. "We encourage people to be mindful of that."