Sun safety: myth versus fact


In Canada, sunlight is strong enough to cause skin cancer and premature aging of the skin, but nobody wants to stay inside when the sun is shining. With so much misinformation about what is considered safe versus not, the best way to protect yourself is to get the facts straight about sun safety.

We’re separating myths from facts so that you can make an informed decision on how to reduce your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.

1. Covering up can help protect you from the sun

That’s a fact.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from the sun is to cover up. Choose clothing that is loose fitting, tightly woven or lightweight. Wear a hat with a wide brim that covers your head, face, ears and neck. Remember, hats like baseball caps don’t give you enough protection. In fact, many skin cancers develop on the face and neck, so these areas need extra protection.

2. UV rays are not harmful to me when it’s cloudy out

That’s a myth.
You need sunscreen regardless if it’s sunny or cloudy, summer and winter alike. Today, the risk of skin cancer is greater than it was 20 years ago and it only continues to increase. We are constantly exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays which penetrate through clouds, fog, and haze. Water, sand, concrete, and snow can even increase the sun’s rays through reflection, causing greater harm than just the direct sun.

3. I’m at higher risk of developing skin cancer because I had several blistering sunburns as a child

That’s a fact.
You are also at greater risk of developing skin cancer if you:

  • have light-coloured skin, eyes and hair
  • work, play or exercise in the sun for long periods of time
  • take drugs that make you more sensitive to UV light

4. Getting a “base tan” protects me from burning under the sun

That’s a myth.
A tan offers almost no protection from sunlight or burning. Whether you get a tan from the sun or tanning beds, you are never protected from getting a burn. In fact, tanning beds can expose you to 5 times more radiation than the sun and significantly increase your chances of melanoma skin cancer.

5. Broad-spectrum sunscreen offers the best protection against the sun’s rays

That’s a fact.
The Society recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 or higher, and if you plan to be outside most of the day, use an SPF 30. Broad-spectrum sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. The sun protection factor (known as SPF) tells you the product’s ability to screen or block out the sun’s UVB rays only. SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93% of UVB rays whereas sunscreen with SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays.

Recap: 5 Sun Safety Tips

  1. Use sunscreen properly
  2. Wear your sunglasses
  3. Wear a wide brimmed hat
  4. Cover up
  5. Seek shade
More information on sun safety.

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