Sun Awareness 2024

Sun Awareness

Skin provides our first line of defense against the world around us, and yet we so often abuse it without even a second thought. Every time we go outdoors, we expose our skin to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. Sun damage can range from the pain and blistering of a sunburn to the wrinkled, saggy appearance caused by photoaging to the most serious problem of all: skin cancer. More than 90% of all skin cancers occur on the parts of the body that are subjected to repeated sun exposure.

Health Canada warns that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canada and that about one third of all new cases are skin cancers. The 2023 Government of Canada report on Canadia cancer statistics predicted about 9,700 Canadians would be diagnosed with melanoma cancer, of which 1,250 would die from the disease. It also reported that melanoma has one of the fastest growing rates of incidence among cancers in developed countries. High risk factors include exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation through sunlight, tanning beds, tanning booths or sun lamps. It is suggested that past inadequate sun protection likely accounts for the continued rise in melanoma rates.*

How the Sun Damages the Skin

The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the form of UVA, UVB, and UVC rays.

  • UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin, causing damage that leads to wrinkles, premature aging, and dark spots.
  • UVB rays reach the outer layer of the skin and can cause redness, sunburn, and contribute more to the development of skin cancer. They are nearly 1000 times stronger that UVA rays.**
  • UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, so they do not reach the earth’s surface.

Too much exposure to UV radiation can damage the DNA in your skin cells. Your body can repair some of the damage, but not all of it. Over time, as the damage builds up, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.***

Skin Cancer: What You Need to Know

Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. There are three different forms of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. Most skin cancers are either basal cell or squamous cell, also known as keratinocyte carcinomas. When they are detected promptly and treated in the earliest stages, treatment is successful in about 90% of cases. Basal cell cancers usually appear on sun-exposed areas of the body—most commonly the face and neck, but also on the trunk, arms, and legs. The appearance of this type of cancer varies from person to person. Squamous cell cancers most often appear as thickened, red, scaly bumps or wart-like growths, but they can also look like an open sore or crusted skin.

Melanomas—which account for about 6% of cases—are a much more serious form of skin cancer, and the only effective treatment is early detection and prompt surgical removal. Melanoma often begins as a mole-like growth that may become itchy or bleed. It is usually a dark brown but may be mixed with areas of white, pink, blue, or grey. It can change shape, grow larger, or even change colour.

Any time you notice a new spot on your body or an old spot that changes, especially if it bleeds easily, you should consult your doctor. If you have spent much time in the sun, you should learn the “ABCDEs” of spotting a melanoma:

  • A is for asymmetry. If you draw a line through the centre spot, the halves will not be identical.
  • B is for their borders. The edges will be uneven, scalloped, or notched. C is for their colour. There can be a variety of shades (brown, red, white, blue, or black).
  • D is for their diameter. The distance across the spot will be greater than 6 mm – about the size of the eraser on the end of a pencil.
  • E is for evolution. This refers to any change in size, colour, shape, or height of the spot or the development of a new symptom such as bleeding, itching, or crusting.

Self-Defense: Protecting Yourself from Sun Damage

Protecting yourself from sun damage begins with shielding your skin from damaging ultraviolet radiation. And that means using a broad-spectrum (UVA – UVB protection) sunscreen every time you go outdoors. There are two different types of sunscreens: chemical blocks and physical blocks. Chemical blocks work by absorbing ultraviolet rays before they reach your skin. Physical blocks form a physical barrier that acts like a mirror to reflect the rays away from your skin.

Sunscreens, whether they use chemical or physical blocks, are rated by a system called sun protection factor, or SPF for short. The higher the SPF rating, the longer the UVB protection will last. The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends that you look for a product with a minimum SPF of 30 to protect against the sun’s UVB rays plus ingredients that protect against UVA. Sunscreens labelled as “broad spectrum” help protect against both kinds of radiation.

An SPF 15 means the sunscreen gives you 15 times as much protection as your natural skin colouring. If your skin normally turns red after 20 minutes in the sun, a sunscreen rated SPF 15 will prevent sunburn for 15 times as long, i.e., 300 minutes (5 hours). However, it is important to remember that no sunscreen gives complete protection against all of the damaging rays, and no sunscreen will be effective if it isn’t used properly. Also remember that swimming and perspiring remove some sunscreen, so be sure to reapply the product as needed.

So, now that the Spring is starting, and you plan more outdoors activities be sure to protect yourself with an adequate sunscreen. If you need help finding the right type of sunscreen and the best SPF factor for your type of skin and expected activities come to your local London Drugs. Our expert Pharmacists can help you determine what is the best option to ensure you get the correct protection from your choice of sunscreen. They can also give you general guidelines for sunscreen use.

*Canadian Cancer Statistics 2023 (
**Enjoy the sun safely | Canadian Cancer Society
***The Science (

Summer Skin Care

It’s a beautiful day outside, and the sun is shining down on you, warming your skin to the perfect temperature. Like the plants and animals around us, we need the sun to survive—but exposure to the sun has a dark side, too. Extended exposure to sunlight, especially during childhood, can cause significant skin damage.

Sunlight travels through the air as ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). There are several different types of UV rays. UVA rays play a role in causing skin damage such as wrinkling and premature aging of the skin, and they have also been associated with causing skin cancer. UVB rays are mostly to blame for sunburn and are closely linked with the development of skin cancer. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from skin damage and still enjoy the sun. Here are some tips that can help.

• Limit the amount of time you spend outdoors when the sun’s rays are most intense—usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

• Look for shade. A good guideline to use is that if your shadow is shorter than you are, move into the shade. Babies under six months of age should always be in the shade and their skin should be covered.

• Wear protective clothing and sunglasses. A long-sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat will help protect your skin from the sun’s rays. Choose sunglasses that provide 99% to 100% UV absorption to protect your eyes.

• Always wear sunscreen on any exposed skin when you go outdoors—all year round, every day, even when it’s cloudy. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and make sure it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply 30 mL (1 oz.) of sunscreen—about enough to fill a shot glass—to your whole body 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply more sunscreen to your body every two hours, or every hour if you are swimming or sweating. If you need help selecting a sunscreen, your London Drugs pharmacy team will be happy to help you.

• Use a lip balm or lipstick that contains a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher

• Be especially careful around water and sand, because these surfaces can reflect the sun’s rays, increasing your chances of getting a sunburn.

• Be aware of medication side effects. Some medicines can make you more sensitive to the sun. Your London Drugs pharmacists can let you know if any of the medicines you take could have this effect.

Your summer skin care routine

Your daily skin care routine needs to be adjusted as the seasons change. As the temperature rises and the humidity increases, our skin begins to produce more oil for protection, but the oil can get stuck on the skin surface, clogging pores and making skin feel greasy. Blocked pores can lead to acne breakouts, the most common skin problem that occurs in summer. Wash your face with a deep cleansing facial wash suited to your skin type.

If you choose to exfoliate your skin, do it gently. Choose a method and product made for your skin type. If not done properly, exfoliation can cause more harm than good, leading to skin damage or acne breakouts. Always follow exfoliation with a moisturizer. If you are not sure if exfoliation is right for you, speak to your pharmacist, family doctor, or dermatologist first.

Keeping your skin hydrated is key all summer long. Drinking about eight 250 mL (8 oz.) glasses of water daily will also help maintain the moisture balance of your body and your skin. You may require more or less water depending on your activities for the day, your general health, and how much caffeine you consume.

Use a moisturizer to protect your skin and choose one based on your skin type. Look for creams and lotions that are unscented, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), and consider those with sunscreen if it will be used on exposed skin. For best absorption, apply the moisturizer immediately after you bathe.

Remember your eyes and lips. Sunglasses with larger lenses can help protect the delicate skin around your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. If your lipstick does not provide SPF protection, apply a lip balm with SPF protection under your lipstick.

Gently scrub your feet to exfoliate and apply moisturizer and sunscreen to them daily, especially if you wear sandals or open-toed shoes.

Don’t sweat it!

Summer sun brings summer sweat and the odour that comes with it. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to minimize or eliminate excessive sweating.

• Look for clothes made from breathable fabrics to help you stay cool.

• Limit or avoid eating spicy foods, because they raise overall body temperature, and the body’s response is to create sweat to help us cool down.

• Stay hydrated. Drinking cold water will help your body stay cool and reduce sweating.

• Deodorants to help control or mask odours and antiperspirants to control sweating or wetness are especially desirable in warmer weather. Look for a product that has a gentle formula and feels good on your skin.

If you need any assistance choosing summer skin care products, our pharmacists and beauty advisors are always here to help you.

Sun Safety for the Outdoors

Gardeners, golfers, and other participants in outdoor sports often become the victims of too much sun and too little protection.

Applying sunscreen and reapplying it at regular intervals, is reasonably easy to remember when outdoors. Always apply 20 minutes or so before exposure, reapplying at two-hour intervals, and again after getting wet.

Reapplying sunscreen during being active outdoors is often overlooked. The fact that we sweat heavily during exercising, which dilutes the sun protection we have applied, spells double trouble.

Pointers for staying sun safe outdoors

  • Golfers: Choose a high SPF sunscreen (minimum SPF 30) and reapply after nine holes. Seek out shade whenever possible. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and make sure to protect your neck.
  • Runners, and cyclists: Choose sweat-resistant or water-resistant sunscreen and remember to reapply after heavy perspiration.
  • Gardeners: Ensure you garden before 11 am or after 3 pm to avoid sun exposure at its strongest. Wearing long pants and sleeves in dark colors and tightly woven fabrics can also protect from the sun’s rays. You can even consider sun-protection clothing to further block UV exposure.

Most people do not apply enough sunscreen to reach the level of SPF indicated on the packaging. For adequate protection, you should apply two to three tablespoons of sunscreen over your body (approximately one and a half shot glasses) and a teaspoon on your face before going outside.

Whichever sunscreen you choose, be sure that it provides protection against both UVB and UVA rays. (Most sunscreens that offer this protection will say broad spectrum on the packaging.) UVA light penetrates more deeply into the skin, contributing to the risk of skin cancers.

The high-pressure sunlamps used in tanning salons emit doses of UVA as much as 12 times that received from the sun. As a result, people who use tanning salons are significantly more likely to develop skin cancer. Research also suggests that first exposure to tanning beds during the teens or 20s increases lifetime melanoma risk by 75 per cent.

Staying Safe in the Sun

  • Be sure to check the Environment Canada UV Index, which is published in most daily newspapers alongside the weather forecast. On days when the UV Index reaches 3 or more (moderate), you need to be extra careful to protect your skin.
  • Avoid sun exposure between 11 am and 3 pm.
  • Seek shade whenever possible.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed sunhat and sunglasses.
  • Reapply your sunscreen frequently (at least every two hours and always after swimming or taking a dip).
  • Avoid tanning and tanning beds.
  • Examine your skin from head to toe monthly. Look for moles that have an irregular border, or are non-symmetrical; that are more than one shade or colour, or are greater than 6 mm in diameter. Also be aware of moles that change in size, shape or colour. Report any such changes to your doctor.

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