Canadian Cancer Society urges Spring Break vacationers to be safe in the sun

08 March 2011

TORONTO -

As many Ontarians prepare to holiday in the sun during Spring Break, the Canadian Cancer Society is releasing important provincial statistics as well as results of an Environics poll about sun safety. Both the poll and the largest survey ever done on sun safety in Ontario reveal that too many Ontarians continue to expose themselves to cancer-causing UV radiation by either sun exposure or using tanning equipment. This is concerning as skin cancer is now the most common form of cancer in Ontarians.

The Canadian Cancer Society has released a new publication called Insight on Cancer: Sun Exposure and Protective Behaviors in Ontario (published jointly with Cancer Care Ontario), which provides information based on a survey conducted in 2006. This survey showed that over time Ontarians have increased their exposure to UVR without taking action to protect themselves from its potential harmful effects.

The Society also conducted an Ontario poll in January 2011 that showed that many Ontarians still engage in harmful behaviours such as getting what they think of as a “base tan” before going on a beach vacation because they believe it will protect them from sunburn.

Alarmingly, the 2011 poll showed that 49% of students and 36% of those aged 18-29 falsely believe that using indoor tanning equipment to get a so-called “base tan” before going on a winter sun vacation protects from sunburn. And 35% of residents of northern Ontario also believe this to be a fact.

“We’re concerned that too many Ontarians continue to seek a tan, especially before and during a winter vacation in a sunny climate,” says Dr. Loraine Marrett, Co-chair Ontario Sun Safety Working Group and Director, Surveillance, Prevention and Cancer Control, Cancer Care Ontario, who is the lead investigator of the 2006 national sun survey. “There is simply no safe way to get a tan.”

“We’re particularly concerned about youth because the use of tanning equipment before the age of 35 has been found to increase the risk of melanoma,” says Dr. Cheryl Rosen, National Director of the Canadian Dermatology Association’s Sun Awareness Program and an investigator of the 2006 national sun survey.

The idea that tanned people look healthy and are more attractive continues to hold sway with the Ontario public, according to the poll. But the poll shows that younger generations’ attitudes have changed significantly from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Call it the Snookie effect as many young people may be influenced by pop culture TV shows such as Jersey Shore and its obsession with tanning. Yet at the same time these TV stars and their extreme dedication to tans are increasingly looking unfavorable to young people. According to poll and survey results, only 41% of those aged 18-29 link a tan to healthy looks as opposed to 66% of those aged 75 or older.

“We need to work towards a social norm that does not include a tan as a sign of beauty or health. Aside from legislation to protect youth, more needs to be done to raise awareness of the cancer risk of UV radiation — from both sun and tanning equipment,” says Salima Allibhai-Hussein, Senior Manager, Prevention, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division.

Environics Poll ResultsA total of 51% of Ontarians surveyed believe that people look more attractive with a sun tan, and 51% of respondents also believe that people look healthier with a suntan.

Older people are more likely than younger age groups to attribute healthy looks to a suntan; two-thirds (66%) of those age 75 or older think the tanned look is healthier compared to 41% of those aged 18 to 29 who link a tan to healthy looks.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends

  • Plan outdoor activities before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to minimize exposure when UVR is most intense
  • Seek shade or create your own shade with an umbrella or other portable structure
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and loose-fitting clothing made of tightly woven fabric
  • Liberally apply a broad-spectrum (with UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher
  • Wear sunglasses that have/offer UVA & UBV protection

Insight on Cancer Survey Results*

18% of Ontarians will get at least one sunburn during a winter vacation to a sunny climate. This percentage is lower in Ontario than any other province. Quebec is highest with 30%.

ThereforeOntario residents seem to be getting the message about sun protection more than any other province.

Adults on a winter vacation to a sunny climate (20.8% of the Ontario population compared with the national average of 16.8%) spend more time in the sun than they do during leisure summer times.

Most Canadian adults 65 and older are practicing effective sun safety and parents are doing a good job of protecting children one to five years of age.

Skin cancer continues to be one of the biggest cancers for teens and young adults aged 15-29.

Older children (ages 6-12) spend the most time in the sun of any age group and often are not protected from the sun; 25% do not use any form of sun protection.

Insight on Cancer: Sun Exposure and Protective Behaviours in Ontario can be found on the publications page of the Ontario section of www.cancer.ca

More information about safe sun practice and the Society’s call for legislation prohibiting youth under 18 from using tanning equipment can be found on www.cancer.ca

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

Insight on Cancer is designed to provide information for health professionals and policy-makers about cancer and cancer risk factors in Ontario.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Justin Edmonstone

Public Affairs

Canadian Cancer Society

Ontario Division

Phone: 416-323-7026