New Sun Safety Recommendations

Sunshine in a meadow.
Monday, June 6, 2016

This week is National Sun Awareness Week, and together with partners across the country, Cancer Care Ontario has released new sun safety recommendations to help Canadians reduce their risk of skin cancer and minimize harmful exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada, and the incidence rates for melanoma, the most deadly form of the disease, continue to increase. What many people don't realize is that UV rays from the sun can damage the skin and eyes even when it's cloudy.

Consistent sun safety recommendations are critical to improving sun safety behaviours, which is why national public education messages for skin cancer prevention and eye health protection have been updated. Twenty-eight national and provincial organizations participated in the consensus process, including Cancer Care Ontario, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Dermatology Association. Skin cancer, including melanoma, is one of the most preventable types of cancer. By providing consistent recommendations, Canadians can still enjoy the sun by protecting their skin and eyes.

Key sun safety recommendations:

Protect your skin: When the UV Index is three or higher, generally from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. between April and September, even when it's cloudy, protect your skin as much as possible by:

  • Seeking or making shade
  • Wearing clothes and a hat with a wide brim, preferring clothes to sunscreen
  • Using plenty of sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, water resistant and broad spectrum on skin not covered by clothing
  • Don't seek to tan, from the sun or from tanning beds, and avoid sunburns.

Protect your eyes: Wear sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses with UV-protective lenses and a hat with a wide brim. The sun's rays can be harmful to the eyes all year round and throughout the day, even when it's cloudy. Eye protection is required around highly reflective environments, such as snow, sand and water.

The facts about skin cancer:
  • The single most important risk factor for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer is exposure to UV radiation, which is also known to cause harm to the eyes.
  • National Sun Surveys showed that between 1996 and 2006, Canadians generally increased their time in the sun without improving protective behaviours.
  • Melanoma is the most dangerous of the three types of skin cancer and incidence is on the rise. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, in 2015, an estimated 3,250 new cases of melanoma (1,750 males and 1,500 females) were diagnosed.
  • Studies have shown that frequent sunburns - even if they occurred years ago when you were a child or teenager - increase the risk of melanoma.
  • My CancerIQ is a confidential online tool that allows Ontarians to determine their personal risk factors for six types of cancer - melanoma, breast, cervical, colorectal, kidney and lung cancers. To learn more about your risk for melanoma and what you can do to prevent it, visit My CancerIQ today and complete a personalized risk assessment.