Changes to Canada’s sun safety guidelines

June 24, 2016

Now that summer has arrived, many of us think about spending time in the sunshine. With increased skin cancer rates, it’s important we also think about protection. This year, the Canadian Cancer Society has released new sun safety guidelines, the first update in 20 years and the first time the guidelines are uniform, regardless of the organization doling out the guidance. The key changes are:

  • Use a sunscreen with a minimum protection of SPF 30, up from the previous SPF 15. The sunscreen should be labelled as broad-spectrum and water resistant, too. It’s also critical to apply sunscreen on all exposed areas of your body, and in the right amount. 
  • Key times to avoid the sun.  Canadians should avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm. This is the time when the UV index is three or more, typically between April and September in Canada. The time frame used to be 11am to 4pm, so you can avail yourself an extra hour in the sun, if you like.
  • Cover-up with clothing. Have you ever felt a bit awkward that you’re the only person wearing a t-shirt or a light pair of pants over your swimsuit at the beach? Turns out you were on the right track. The new safety regulations advise us to cover up when you can – clothes provide much better protection. Use a hat; and wear long sleeves and pants.  How do you know if the clothing is UV-protective? Hold the fabric up to the light, and if it doesn’t seep through, you should be in the clear.

And keep in mind some of the other tips we should all be aware of: seek shade (bring an umbrella); wear a hat with wide brim; and wear close fitting sunglasses in a wraparound style with UVA/UVB protection.

Why is this so important?

Skin cancer rates are rising, and the rates of melanoma – the most serious skin cancer – are rising dramatically. The Melanoma Research Alliance in the US says cases of melanoma have tripled in the last 30 years, at a time when cancer rates for other common cancers have declined. And researchers in the US are now seeing a clear connection between sunscreen and prevention of melanoma.

These guidelines reflect changes in evidence over the last two decades, and the need for more streamlined, consistent recommendations.  

Want to know more?

Visit the Canadian Cancer Society website

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