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Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada. Many skin cancers can be prevented. The single most effective way to lower the risk of developing skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR).
You can enjoy healthy outdoor activities as long as you protect yourself from the sun. Take steps to protect yourself from the sun’s rays before going outside. It is also important to protect against UV rays all year round, not just in the summer.
Check the UV Index before going outside. When the UV Index reaches 3 or more (moderate), you need to be extra careful to protect your skin. Try to reduce your time in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. – when the sun’s rays are at their strongest – or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or more. In Canada the UV Index can be 3 or more from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. between April and September, even when it’s cloudy.
Be especially careful on holidays. Tropical destinations such as Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean are closer to the equator where UVR is stronger.
The sun’s rays are also stronger at high altitudes.
Seek shade or create your own shade when outside, especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Cover up as much of your skin as you can with tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing. Clothes provide better protection than sunscreen.
Most skin cancers occur on the face and neck. These areas need extra protection.
Sunglasses can help prevent damage to your eyes by blocking a large percentage of UV rays. Keep your shades on and make sure your children wear them too. Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive to be effective, but make sure you choose close-fitting ones with UVA and UVB protection in a wraparound style. The label might have UV 400 or 100% UV protection on it.
Sunscreen protects you from the sun by absorbing or blocking UV rays. It should be used along with shade, clothing and hats, not instead of them. Use sunscreen as a backup in your sun protection plan. Sunscreen should be used on any exposed skin not covered by clothing.
There is no safe way to get a tan. Do not use indoor tanning equipment. Just like the sun, tanning beds and sun lamps release UV rays that cause sunburn, damage skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. Their strength may be up to 5 times stronger than the midday sun on a summer day.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.