Sunscreen is key to a safe summer in the sun

Summer is here and while there are benefits to the Vitamin D provided by sunlight, there are many precautions to be taken to avoid the adverse affects.

“Ultraviolet light does several things including causing mutations in DNA, causing changes in the cells and putting them on a path toward becoming skin cancers,” said Dr. Barry Lycka, a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta recognized dermatologist.

July is UV Safety Month and people are being urged to be more aware of the amount of UV exposure they allow themselves as well as ways to lower their chances of skin cancers.

Everyone is susceptible to skin cancer, said Lycka, but those at the highest risk include people with white or light-coloured skin, blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes.

Lycka explained that UV light causes brown and red spots on the skin, wrinkles, pre-cancers as well as cancers.

The best way to prevent all of these damaging effects of UV light, said Lycka, is to wear a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

“Prevention takes a lifelong approach. We tell everyone to stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., to wear a shirt and hat and to wear sunscreen.”

The CDA assures those with concerns about claims of hormone disruption and malformations in babies that sunscreen is safe and that there has been no evidence to support these theories.

Dr. Cheryl Rosen, national director of the Canadian Dermatology Association’s (CDA) Sun Awareness Program said people are still encouraged to enjoy outdoor summer activities.

“Being active year round has direct benefits to people’s health and overall well-being. But all that time spent out in the sun can increase a person’s risk of sunburn and skin cancer,” said Rosen.

The CDA recommends that sunscreen, of the suggested 30 SPF rating, be reapplied every two hours and using one that is a broad spectrum sunscreen which guards against both UVA and UVB rays.

Those concerned about the type of sunscreen they use can look for the CDA logo to aid in making an appropriate choice for themselves or even their children.

This year alone there are expected to be 74,000 new diagnosed cases of skin cancer.

As well as protecting the skin, it is important for everyone to remember to protect their eyes as well by wearing sunglasses that are UV safe.

Lycka also said people concerned about the appearances of changing or suspicions moles should consult their doctor.

“The good thing about skin cancer is that it is treatable and preventable.”

Things Lycka said to watch for include moles that undergo color changes or are irregular or asymmetrical.

“For parents with children it is all things in moderation. Wear a hat, sunscreen and stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.”