Over 1,300 people in BC will be diagnosed with melanoma this year – a number that will rise by 26 per cent in the next five years. BC Cancer encourages residents to enjoy the outdoors but remain vigilant against harmful UV rays that can damage skin and could lead to skin cancer.
“Skin cancer is largely preventable,” says Dr. Parveen Bhatti, scientific director, cancer prevention at BC Cancer. “The key to prevention is reducing exposure to UV, or ultraviolet, light.”
The sun’s UV rays are at their strongest between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., when unprotected skin can be damaged in minutes. UV exposure is lower earlier in the day.
British Columbians enjoy an active lifestyle. In the summer, you often see people hiking, biking, or out on the water. Many already take precautions like using sunscreen or wearing hats and long sleeves to be sun-safe, but you can also beat the heat (and crowds) by getting up with the sun, at sunrise.
Checking the UV index
, issued daily by Environment Canada, can help alert you to the need for sun protection. A reading of three or higher means that sun-protective actions are needed. Even a cloudy day could have a UV Index reading of three or more.
“The risk of developing skin cancer increases as your exposure to UV increases, so it’s important to be sun-safe every day. Your skin uses a pigment called melanin to try to defend against sun damage – this causes your skin to darken. A change in colour is a telltale sign that skin has been damaged.” Dr. Bhatti recommends keeping an eye on any freckles, moles, or lumps on skin and seeing a doctor if you notice any changes.