Welcome to August!
August may mark the ‘last’ month of summer but it has also been designated as Sun Awareness Month.
So let’s talk ‘Safe Sun’ shall we!
Why is it important to talk about safe sun practices you ask? Well it has a lot to do with the fact that the incidences of skin cancer has increased significantly over the past 25 years in Canada.
Skin cancer is divided in to 2 groups, melanoma and non-melanoma.
Melanoma skin cancer starts in the melanocyte cells of the skin. The melanocytes make melanin and it is melanin that gives skin its colour. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.
The second group is non-melanoma skin cancer comprising basal cell and squamous cell cancers. These cancers are less serious types and make up about 95% of all skin cancers
There are risk factors for skin cancer. If you are at a higher risk, you can take the proper steps to protect yourself.
You may be at a higher risk for developing skin cancer if you have:
- A personal or family history of melanoma
- Many moles or moles that are unusually shaped or large
- A susceptibility to burning easily in the sun
- Light coloured skin, eyes, and hair
- A history of excessive sun exposure
- A disease or diseases that suppress your immune system
One of the main causes of skin cancer is over exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
The sun naturally gives out ultraviolet radiation. There are two main types of UV rays that can damage skin.
- UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB and play a major part in the aging of our skin. Think wrinkle rays:) UVA rays can damage skin cells called keratinocytes. Basal and squamous cells are types of keratinocytes. UVA rays can contribute to and possibly initiate the development of skin cancers.
- UVB rays cause skin reddening and sunburn damaging the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers. These rays play a key role in the development of skin cancer. UVB rays can burn and damage your skin all year-round. Even in the snowy winter months the snow and ice can reflect UVB rays and damage your skin.
Interesting facts to note
Your skin does not have to be in a blistering, peeling state to be considered burnt. If your skin has gone red or pink it has been sunburnt.
When your skin gets burnt, the UV radiation causes damage to the DNA of your skin cells and it is this damage that is the underlying cause of skin cancer.
You can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer with proper sun care aimed at avoiding harmful UV rays.
- Seek shade when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. This is when it is strongest
- Cover up with clothing – wear a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses
- Apply sunscreen regularly with at least a SPF15. Use it generously and re-apply regularly