There is nothing better than spending time outdoors on a sunny summer day. There is a sense of well-being that goes along with being out and about in the summer time, but it is important to remember that sun exposure has both positive and negative effects.
Time in the sun provides us with vitamin D – an essential vitamin – increased opportunity for physical activity, and can help enhance our mood. Unfortunately, unsafe sun exposure can also lead to premature aging, eye diseases, and skin cancers.
Did you know that Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have the highest rates of melanoma skin cancer in Canada? Approximately 20 people per 100,000 in these provinces will develop melanoma, compared to about 11 per 100,000 across the country. The primary cause of skin cancer is overexposure to the sun; repeated unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays can put you at risk.
“We know that in this part of the country we have a more fair skinned population and we do seem to have an increased tendency in our population specifically towards melanoma – almost twice as much as the rest of the country,” says Dr. Peter Green, Dermatologist, IWK Health Centre, Chair, Sun Safe Nova Scotia, and Associate Professor, Division of Dermatology and Cutaneous Science, Dalhousie University. “For some reason our population is at more risk of melanoma and we have to be vigilant to that. When we’re talking about sun safety, we’re not talking about avoiding outdoor activities entirely. It’s a matter of avoiding excessive ultraviolet exposure and, specifically, burns.”
Tips for safe fun in the sun
“The most important things to remember are the basics,” says Dr. Green. “Remember to avoid the midday sun, look for shade, cover up and apply sunscreen.”
The sun’s rays are most powerful between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Try to avoid being in the direct sunlight during these times. Look for shaded areas for activities, such as under trees or umbrellas. Wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible by choosing materials that are light and cool. Also, wear sunglasses that have 100 per cent UV protection to avoid causing eye damage. Most importantly, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen, with SPF 30 or higher, 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply 15 to 30 minutes after sun exposure begins, and then every two hours after that.
Before going out to enjoy the good weather, make sure you are aware of the risks associated with prolonged sun exposure and the measures you can take to protect yourself and your family.
For more information on the positive and negative effects of the sun and how to protect yourself and your family, visit www.cancercare.ns.ca.