During the pandemic, people are spending more time outdoors increasing their exposure to the sun and their risk of developing skin cancer. (iStock)

More outdoor activity increasing risk of skin cancer

In 2020, more than 80,000 Canadians were diagnosed with skin cancers and over 1,300 died from melanoma, the deadliest form. A recent survey suggests that one-quarter of Canadians don’t realize that spending more time in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer and 55 per cent don’t know that a small amount of sun exposure without protection can lead to melanoma.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many Canadians to stay home but health authorities across the country have encouraged people to spend more time outdoors where transmission of the virus is less likely than it is indoors. Canadians have embraced the advice and parks, trails and streets are much more crowded than they were pre-pandemic. 

This has prompted a patient-led non profit to raise awareness about the dangers of skin cancer. The Save Your Skin Foundation provides support to cancer patients and caregivers ranging from prevention and diagnosis to survivorship.

The risk for developing skin cancer appears to not be top of mind for many Canadians. (iStock)

Hockey player helps

The foundation has teamed up with hockey player JT Miller of the Vancouver Canucks team to spread the word during the month of May which is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month. “My wife lost her mother to melanoma last year. She was just 58 years old,” said Miller. “I want everyone to understand just how important it is to protect your skin from the sun. Skin cancer can happen to anyone and it can be very serious.”

Miller is using his social media to raise awareness and he has contributed to the foundation’s Giving Hope Gala. This event on April 29, 2021 brings patients and survivors from across Canada together with other stakeholders to raise funds.

Wear a big hat, use sunscreen and seek shade, urges the Canadian Cancer Society. (iStock)

Many ways to reduce risk suggested

The Canadian Cancer Society suggests several ways to reduce the risk of skin cancer. It urges people to reduce the amount of time they spend in the sun between 11am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. The riskiest time of year in Canada is between April and September, even when it is cloudy. But snow can reflect harmful rays, so care should be taken in winter months as well. 

People are urged to seek shade, cover their skin with tightly woven clothes, wear a hat, good sunglasses and to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30. Extra care should be taken in and around water or sand, which too can reflect UV rays.

After a long winter, many Canadians crave the summer sun and may not take enough precautions to minimize the risk of getting skin cancers. (iStock)

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