Dangerous Gaps in Sun Safety Knowledge
OTTAWA, June 1, 2015 – A new survey commissioned by the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) for Sun Awareness Week suggests that Canadians have taken warnings about the risks of sun exposure to heart, but still continue to harbour some dangerous misconceptions.
One quarter of respondents indicated that when it is cloudy outside, there is no need to use sunscreen. Many also seem to believe that sunscreen is more permanent than it actually is: only 49 per cent reapply after swimming, 32 per cent after two hours in the sun and 24 per cent after perspiring.
"Cloudy days trick us by filtering out the heat and the light of the sun, and leaving us with high levels of UV radiation, " said Dr. Jennifer Beecker, chair of the CDA Sun Awareness Advisory Board. "It feels counterintuitive to put sunscreen on when it’s cloudy, but it’s necessary. In fact, in some instances, clouds can even increase UV radiation by bouncing it back down to Earth. This makes it just as important to wear sunscreen on overcast days as when the sun is blazing."
"As well, even though sunscreens continue to improve over time, they are not waterproof," said Dr. Beecker. "Some are water resistant, but even so, they must be reapplied regularly, especially if you are sweating or swimming."
Skin cancer is one of a small number of cancers that can be prevented through simple measures such as limiting sun exposure, seeking shade, wearing hats and clothing, and using an SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen. Even so, skin cancer continues to rise in Canada.
Canadians born in the 1990s have two to three times higher lifetime risk of getting skin cancer compared to those born in the 1960s. For those born in the 1990s, there is a one-in-six lifetime risk of having skin cancer. For those born in the 1960s, there is a one-in-20 lifetime risk.
Skin cancer has been on the rise in Canada since the 1970s, with its most dangerous form, melanoma, now the third most common cancer among women aged 15 to 29 years.
Many older Canadians are paying the price for sunbathing habits of the past. Today, some of the shine may have worn off sunbathing, but more and more Canadians are turning to outdoor activities as a way of improving health and quality of life.
"Physicians welcome this trend," said Dr. Beecker, "and we urge people, as they get active outdoors, not just to look after their heart, lungs and muscles, but also their skin. Develop good sun hygiene and stick with it."
Because many outdoor enthusiasts swim or sweat while participating in activities, it is even more important to take precautions when active than under normal circumstances.
Attitudes toward sun safety
The Sun Awareness Week survey did find that public information was having a positive impact on Canadians. For example:
• 92 per cent of respondents said it was essential to protect their skin from the sun.
• 86 per cent always or occasionally seek shade when going out between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
• 85 percent apply sunscreen when going outdoors.
• 57 per cent check the UV Index before going outdoors.
Despite this positive news, there remains a small group of people who are sceptical about the dangers of sun exposure. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they believe that the dangers of the sun are exaggerated.
The survey was conducted between April 2 and 9, 2015, by Ipsos Reid. It collected the responses of over one thousand Canadians, male and female, aged 16 and over. Its findings are considered credible +/- 3.4 percent, 19 times out of 20.
About Sun Awareness Week
The Canadian Dermatology Association has organized a nation-wide Sun Awareness Week in early summer since 1989. The aim is to educate Canadians about the dangers of too much sun and to help stop the rising incidence of skin cancer in Canada.