image source: Toronto Public Health

Can you feel spring in the air? I sure can! If you are like me, you probably cannot wait to be basking in the warm sunlight. As spring approaches and the sun starts to warm us up, it is important to consider how we can enjoy the warmth and stay sun safe as well.

What’s the risk with ultraviolet (UV) rays?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canada, and the UV rays that the sun emits are known to be cancer causing. UV rays can also cause sunburns, skin damage, early aging of skin, and eye damage including cataracts. Indoor tanning devices are also a source of UV rays and can be harmful to your health in the same way as the sun.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone, regardless of skin type, can get skin cancer. Those who have light-coloured or freckled skin, spend long periods of time in the sun, have a history of sunburns, or have a history of indoor tanning are at an increased risk for skin cancer.

What Can Be Done to Protect Your Skin and Eyes from the Sun?

The sun’s UV rays tend to be the strongest between the hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Time in the sun should be limited during these hours.  Shade is a great way to protect yourself from the sun. Try covering up as much of your skin as possible with clothes and a wide brimmed hat that covers the head, neck, and ears. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that are labelled with UV 400 or 100% UV protection. This is especially important near reflective surfaces such as snow, water, and sand as the UV rays reflect off these surfaces.

All Sunscreens Are Not the Same

Choose those with Sun Protective Factor (SPF) 30 or higher, labelled broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) and water resistant. Sunscreen should be reapplied after swimming, sweating, or towelling. Sunscreen lip balms are a great way to keep your lips protected as well.  Remember that no sunscreen provides 100% protection. Use sunscreen with other protective measures to be as sun safe as possible!

If you forgot the sunscreen, don’t worry! This summer, you can enjoy free sunscreen in locations across the city! Visit #besunsafe for locations and more information.

Talking about Prevention in the Classroom

Although skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canada, it is also the most preventable type of cancer. The start of warmer weather is a great time to get your students to think about the risks of UV exposure and what can be done to reduce their risk of skin cancer.  Students can complete an online personal risk assessment at   https://www.mycanceriq.ca/Cancers/Melanoma. Once the assessment is completed, students will be provided with a personal action plan. Encourage students to think of one small action that they can take to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer.

Instructions for this computer lab activity as well as other activities related to sun safety can be found in Toronto Public Health’s curriculum here.

If your school is planning any outdoor events or BBQs, this is the perfect opportunity to practice being sun safe. Include sun safety messages on promotional flyers and ensure there are shaded areas available.

A little note to keep in mind: We might not be experiencing cloudless blue skies just yet, but the UV rays can penetrate through clouds, fog, and haze, so every time is a good time to #besunsafe!

Post written by Toronto Public Health


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