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The Skin We're In

Be Sun Safe this Summer

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Dr. Sunil Kalia

CDA Member, Chair of the Sun Awareness Working Group

During Sun Awareness Month in May, the Canadian Dermatology Association illuminated the importance of sun safety for children and youth, and we aim to continue these sun safety initiatives throughout the summer months.

As the days get brighter and longer, and climate change impacts rises in global temperatures, Canadians can practice healthy sun protection habits to protect themselves from sunburns, pigmentation changes, heat stress, aging, and skin cancer.

“There are many ways to be sun safe,” said Dr. Sunil Kalia, CDA member and chair of the Sun Awareness Working Group that manages the national campaign.

Healthy Sun Habits

“Avoid direct sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the UV Index is above 3,” said Dr. Kalia. But if you are outside, dermatologists recommend seeking shade, such as from trees or umbrellas.

Covering your skin with a wide-brimmed hat, using long-sleeved UV protective clothing, sunglasses with UV 400 protection, and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with minimum 30 SPF is advised.

“Sunscreen should be applied prior to sun exposure. Remember to use at least two tablespoons of sunscreen for an adult. And if you have been swimming or sweating, it’s important to re-apply,” said Dr. Kalia.

Skin Cancer Awareness and Protection

While the majority of Canadians diagnosed with skin cancer aren’t children or youth, sunburns received in childhood have a higher risk of developing the DNA mutations that can lead to melanoma.

“If you limit sun exposure, 90 per cent of skin cancers can be prevented,” said Dr. Kalia, adding that by adopting healthy sun habits early on can greatly decrease the risk.

Early detection is also crucial. “One in five Canadians are expected to get skin cancer in their lifetime,” said. Dr. Kalia. So people should learn what skin cancer looks like, including looking at feet, hairlines and under fingernails and when you need to go to a Certified Dermatologist to look at a mole or lesion.

There is an ABCDE criteria, Dr. Kalia adds, that helps with self examinations.

A – asymmetry, when a mole is not even

B – irregular or poorly defined borders

C – relates to colour variations, note that moles with two or more colours are a more serious concern

D – diameter, where moles exceeding six millimetres are considered more concerning

E – evolving, i.e. moles that are changing

“We recommend going to see a dermatologist if a mole has two or more of these ABCDE parameters,” said Dr. Kalia.

Practicing healthy sun habits and checking your skin can improve health outcomes.

Learn more about the Canadian Dermatology Association.

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