Sun Awareness Week: Enjoy the sun safely; reduce risk of skin cancer

June 9, 2017

Enjoy the sun safely; reduce risk of skin cancer

Halifax, N.S., June 9, 2017
—About 2,300 Nova Scotians were diagnosed with non-melanoma or melanoma skin cancers in 2016. Many of these were skin cancers that could have been prevented with appropriate sun safety measures.

“The summer season is short here and we know people want to be outside when it’s nice,” said Dr. Peter Green, Nova Scotia Health Authority dermatologist, and chair of the Sun Safe Nova Scotia coalition. “We’re not asking Nova Scotians to stay out of the sun, but we’re reminding them about the importance of protecting their skin and their eyes when they’re outside to reduce their risk for skin cancer.”

Kim MacPherson shares Dr. Green’s message every chance she gets. She was 39 when she noticed a small mole on her leg changing colour. She had it checked and the test result indicated the mole was cancerous, a melanoma.
“I hesitate to talk too much about the cause of how or why melanoma picked me first,” said Kim, who is now 41. “I don’t want people to be afraid or to stop doing what they love. But, I hear people say, ‘I wear sunblock all the time; I won’t get skin cancer’ and I don’t want those people to not pay attention, thinking it could never happen to them. It could happen to anyone. It happened to me.
“My message is simple, listen and pay attention to changes in your body, advocate for your own heath care and protect your skin from the sun. The day I found out I had melanoma was the best day of my life; I dodged a bullet. I now am diligent about preventative care; I choose to live with gratitude not fear and try to be thankful every day."

Over the last number of years the Sun Safe Nova Scotia coalition, led by Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Program of Care for Cancer, has worked with government partners, community organizations, healthcare providers and students, to develop a comprehensive approach to sun safety.
Work has included the implementation of provincial tanning bed legislation, collaboration with municipal recreation programs, child care and workplaces to support the development of sun safety policies and promotion of the importance of adopting sun safe behaviours.

The coalition recently participated in a collaborative process to revise national messaging on sun safety. New messaging has been developed to reflect the
most current evidence on sun safety to help prevent skin cancer and support eye protection.

The overarching message is, Enjoy the sun safely. Protect your skin; protect your eyes. The details are:
• When the UV index is 3 or higher, protect your skin as much as possible. In Canada, the UV index can be 3 or higher from 11 am to 3 pm between April and September -- even when it is cloudy.
o seek shade or bring your own (eg: an umbrella)
o wear clothing and a wide brimmed hat that covers as much skin as possible, as appropriate to the activity and the weather
o use broad spectrum, water resistant sun screen with an SPF of at least 30 on skin not covered by clothing. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply as needed.
• Don’t use tanning equipment or deliberately try to get a sun tan; avoid getting a sun burn

Protect your eyes:
• Wear sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses with UV-protective lenses.
• Wear a wide-brimmed hat for added eye protection

The Canadian Dermatology Association marks Sun Awareness Week this year June 5-11. This provides a good opportunity to promote the updated sun safety messages in hopes of encouraging more people to protect themselves from the sun’s powerful rays.

In addition to Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Program of Care for Cancer, the Sun Safe Nova Scotia coalition includes members from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources; Canadian Cancer Society – Nova Scotia Division, Doctors Nova Scotia, West Hants Community Health Board, and the Occupational Health and Safety Association of Nova Scotia.

Note to editors: the Canadian Cancer Society has a portable tan cam available for media to access. It does not diagnose skin cancer, but shows sun damage and pigment changes. It does require set-up time and advanced coordination, but may of interest to viewers. For more information, contact Kelly Cull at the Canadian Cancer Society, NS Division, at 902-423-6183.

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Media contact: Christine Smith
Nova Scotia Health Authority

Tan Cam contact: Kelly Cull
Canadian Cancer Society – Nova Scotia Division

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