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Avoiding Skin Damage from UV Rays is the Most Important Thing We Can Do

The damage that leads to adult skin cancers starts in childhood and teenage years, as people are likely to receive about 80% of their lifetime sun exposure during the first 18 years of life. 

No tan is a safe tan.

Please review our Prevention Resources below. 

  • What can I do?
    No cancer, including melanomas, can ever be prevented with 100% certainty. The good news with melanomas is that the risk factors are well known, so steps can be taken to dramatically reduce your risk of developing this deadly disease. Always have sunscreen with you so you can apply it whenever an unplanned outdoor activity arises Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 whenever you are outdoors (even on grayer days) Wear protective clothing with long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses Wear sun safety apparel for added protection Check for changes in moles, new moles and see your doctor immediately if anything is suspicious Limit sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm Do not use tanning beds
  • Suggested Safety Guidelines
    For outdoor labour occurring on sunny days, especially between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., workers are encouraged to: ● Work in shaded areas when able ● Wear full-body coverage clothing, including: full-brimmed hats, long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants made of tightly woven fabric that is lightweight ● Wear sun safety apparel for added protection ● Wear full-spectrum sunglasses that protect from UVA and UVB rays ● Apply SPF of 30+ at least twenty minutes before going outside ● Use lip balm that has a SPF of at least 15 Sun protection training and materials should be provided to staff, encouraging them to practice sun safety both on the job and engaging in outdoor pastimes. These guidelines should be communicated and reinforced to employees through verbal reminders, posters, signs, pamphlets, notice, payroll stuffers, newsletters, and meetings.
  • What is SPF?
    What does a sunscreen’s “SPF” rating mean? All sunscreens have a sun protection factor (SPF) on their labels. SPF is a measure of the amount of UV radiation that can reach the skin with sunscreen compared with no sunscreen. For example: SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent. No sunscreen can block all UV rays. Broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVB and UVA rays. In Canada, regulations depict sunscreen labeling for broad spectrum; look for labels that use the words “Broad Spectrum” and show an image of UVA with a circle around it +UVB.
  • Sun Safety and Infants
    Keeping infants and young children out of the sun as much as possible is very important during the first year of a child’s life. There are links between intermittent and intense sun exposure (resulting in burns) in adolescence and the development of skin cancers later in life (“Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics (2014).Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014. pp. 87.), and skin cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canadian youth from 15-35 years old (Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, “About Skin Cancer”). Regular use of sunscreen with an SPF of 15+ during the first 18 years of life can tremendously reduce the risk of skin cancer. However, before the age of three, sunscreen does not provide adequate protection for developing skin and the best protection is to keep sun exposure to a minimum. Even a suntan is harmful to children, as tanning is an outward sign of internal skin damage.
  • First Aid for Sunburns
    Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause sunburns. Mild sunburns can be treated, however severe sunburns require medical attention. Here is some advice for treating a mild sunburn: ● Avoid creams or lotions that may hold heat inside the skin or may contain numbing medication (i.e. Benzocaine or lidocaine) ● Use of Aloe Vera ● Do not wash burned skin with harsh soap ● For pain relief, you may use ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as directed ● Do not give aspirin to children ● Cover all sunburned areas In the case of a severe sunburn, seek medical attention. Symptoms include: ● Sunburn that forms blisters or is extremely painful ● Facial swelling ● Nausea, fever or severe chills ● Pale or cool skin ● Rapid pulse or rapid breathing ● Headache, confusion or a feeling of faintness or dizziness ● Signs of dehydration (increased thirst, dry eyes and mouth, no urine output) ● Signs of skin infection (increasing redness, warmth, pain, swelling, or pus) ● Eyes that hurt and are sensitive to light
  • Tanning Beds & Lamps
    Tanning beds and sun lamps release UV rays that can cause sunburns, damage skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. People at tanning salons may tell you their lights are safe, but the fact is their lights may give from 10 to 15 times as much UVA as the sun. Many studies have demonstrated that the risk of developing cutaneous melanoma can increase up to 75% when tanning devices are used before the age of 35.
  • UV Rays & Your Skin
    While sunlight has health benefits, it is important to take precautions to protect ourselves from potentially harmful UV rays. During the Winter and Spring months, it is important to protect yourself while pursuing snow sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing. The sun’s reflection off of snow can increase the amount of UV radiation you receive by up to 85%. Wearing sunscreen and sunglasses will help protect exposed areas. It is recommended that you take the same precautions during Summer water sports. An SPF30 is the minimum protection recommended, and sunscreen should be applied twenty minutes before heading outdoors to allow for activation time. Remember to reapply every two hours, or after swimming or perspiring. When you are unsure of the UV strength on a particular day, it is useful to consult the UV index. The UV index is a simplified measurement system for the sun’s damaging rays and a guideline to protection. These are available online and as phone apps. The UV index measures as follows: ● 0-2 – Low Risk – minimal sun protection required (unless near water or snow). Wear sunglasses if bright. ● 3-5 – Moderate Risk – take precautions – wear sunscreen, sunhat, sunglasses, seek shade during peak hours of 11 am to 4 pm. ● 6-7 – High Risk – wear sun protective clothing, sunscreen, and seek shade. ● 8-10 – Avoid the sun – seek shade – wear sun protective clothing, sun screen & sunglasses. White sand increases UV radiation exposure. ● 11 + – Take full precautions. Unprotected skin can burn in minutes. Avoid the sun between 11 am and 4 pm, wear sunscreens & sun protective clothing.
  • The Sun & Your Eyes
    Sunglasses help to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and bright light. Because UV rays carry more energy and are invisible, the eye is at greater risk of damage from UV rays. UVA and UVB rays can cause or speed up several diseases of the eye or its supporting structures and because they occur over a long time, they may happen surreptitiously and are irreversible. During water or snow exposure, it is important to block out blue light. Medium to dark sunglass lenses with a grey, green, or brown tint will block out most blue light. Intensive daily exposure, such as outdoor work, requires a higher level of protection from sunglasses. Daytime driving: general purpose sunglasses are considered sufficient protection during daylight driving. The industry is self-regulated and has three categories of sunglasses: ● cosmetic sunglasses with lightly tinted lenses ● general purpose sunglasses with higher protection levels of all light ● special purpose sunglasses provide the highest protection, but are too dark for driving
  • Physical VS Chemical Filter
    There are many sunscreens on the market, but the most effective ones contain both UVA and UVB protection, known as broad spectrum protection. There are two different types of UV filters found in Sunscreens: Chemical filters: work by absorbing, scattering and reflecting UV radiation. These chemical filters are absorbed by the skin and work from within. This is why they must be applied 15-20 minutes before going in the sun – to give the filters time to be absorbed into your skin so that they can do their job. You will find a wide array of UVB filters used among sunscreen manufacturers, but there are fewer UVA filters available. Physical filters: work by absorbing, scattering and reflecting UV radiation. Physical filters remain on the surface of the skin and are not absorbed. Physical filters are comprised of Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide.
  • Extreme Heat
    Although Canada is not often thought as a sunny country, the reality is that many Canadian cities experience heat waves during the summer months. During heat waves, high temperatures close to 40 degrees can be reached, which can be dangerous for your health (causing illnesses like heat stroke, and even death). You need to be very careful and follow some steps to protect yourself.
Prevention Knowledge:
Skin Self-Examination

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It is very important to check your skin regularly in order to detect any abnormalities. Make sure to look under your shoulders, your nails, your neck, your ears and your head.

If you detect any changes or any moles that are asymmetrical or have irregular borders, uneven colours, or a larger diameter than 6mm, you need to report it to your doctor as soon as possible. These could be signs of skin cancer.

Steps of a Skin Cancer Self-Exam
  • Using a mirror in a well lit room, check the front of your body -face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, thighs and lower legs.

  • Turn sideways, raise your arms and look carefully at the right and left sides of your body, including the underarm area.

  • With a hand-held mirror, check your upper back, neck and scalp. Next, examine your lower back, buttocks, backs of thighs and calves.

  • Examine your forearms, palms, back of the hands, fingernails and in between each finger.

  • Finally, check your feet – the tops, soles, toenails, toes and spaces in between.


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Skin Check Guide

Checking your skin regularly is one of the easiest things you can do for your health. A skin check is a good way to detect early skin changes that may mean melanomas and skin cancers.

You should perform a skin exam on yourself once a month. Additionally, it is a good idea to have your skin examined by a health care professional about once a year.  When performing your monthly skin exam, look for any abnormal skin growth or any change in the colour, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth. Check for any area of injured skin (lesion) that does not heal. Have your spouse or someone such as a close friend help you monitor your skin. A careful skin check may identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers). Adults should examine their skin regularly. Skin cancer often appears on the torso of men and on the legs of women.

Conduct a monthly self-examination, or 'Skin Check,' using our Alexa app.

Skin Check with Amazon Alexa

A careful skin check may identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers). Adults should examine their skin regularly. Skin cancer often appears on the torso of men and on the legs of women.

The Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy has created a free voice-activated app available on both Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant platforms. The app guides people through what to look for, and the seven steps for conducting a full-body skin exam.

The assistant finishes by offering to set a recurring monthly reminder for the exam.

Once enabled, users can simply ask Alexa or Google: “Open Skin Check”

For more information, you can also CLICK HERE to view an instructional skin check video created by our friends at the Global Melanoma Coalition.

Get Skin Help

If you find a spot you’re not sure about and don’t have a Dermatologist already, check out the GetSkinHelp mobile app: The GetSkinHelp mobile app allows individuals to access the SkinAI™ technology – an embedded artificial intelligence that allows people to quickly analyze for a selection of skin diseases, including skin cancers – and schedule video appointments with a licensed Canadian doctor who can help determine next steps.  From there, the doctor might suggest an in-person appointment or simply write a prescription, which will be sent to the patient’s home or pharmacy. What is most important is that the app gets a person in front of a doctor faster than traditional means.

NOTE: The information on the Save Your Skin website is not intended to replace the medical advice of a doctor or healthcare provider. While we make every effort to ensure that the information on our site is as current as possible, please note that information and statistics are subject to change as new research and studies are published.

Skin Cancer in People of Colour

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Skin cancer does not discriminate. People of all skin tones, including those with brown or black skin, get skin cancer. Even if you never sunburn, you can still get skin cancer.


Skin cancer is less common in people of colour, but when it does occur, it’s often diagnosed at an advanced stage and has a worse prognosis. This can be deadly when the person has melanoma. Treatment for any type of skin cancer can be difficult in the late stages. According to experts, there’s a lower public awareness overall of the risk of skin cancer among people of colour.

Also, from the perspective of health-care providers, there’s often a lower index of suspicion for skin cancer in patients of colour, because the chances of it actually are smaller. So these patients may be less likely to get regular, full-body skin exams.

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In people of colour, skin cancer often develops on parts of the body that get less sun like the soles of the feet, lower legs, and palms, which makes detection more difficult.

  • Up to 60 – 75% of melanoma in people of colour occurs on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the nail areas.

  • This cancer may also begin around the anus, or on the genitals.


The risk factors for acral melanomas are not fully understood — acral meaning on the hands and feet — but sun is less likely to be a factor.

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In melanomas on the whole, UV radiation is certainly a major risk factor, and there are plenty of UV-induced melanomas and squamous cell carcinomas in people of colour, who can have a wide range of complexions, from very fair to very dark. But the proportion of skin cancers that occur in non-sun-exposed sites is greater in darker-skinned populations.

About 50% of basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) are pigmented (meaning brown in colour) in darker-skinned patients. If you look at the typical photos of BCCs used in educational materials — most of which focus on light skin — you’ll see a pink, pearly growth that may or may not be crusted. What you’ll almost never see is an image of a brown, slightly translucent lesion. Yet about half of BCCs in darker-skinned patients are brown, or pigmented, and thus easier to miss.

Late Diagnosis

Skin cancer is less common in people of colour, but when it does occur, it’s often diagnosed at an advanced stage and has a worse prognosis. This can be deadly when the person has melanoma. Treatment for any type of skin cancer can be difficult in the late stages.

  • About 52% of Black people and 26% of Hispanics find out they have melanoma when it has already spread, compared with 16% of White people.

  • One study, found an average five-year melanoma survival rate of only 67% in Black people versus 92% in White people.

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Gap in Medical Knowledge

There is a distinct lack of racial diversity in medical images of skin conditions. To address this gap, we have been working with a medical student to help collate resources that depict skin cancer, and other skin conditions, in people of colour. View the full document here


American Academy of Dermatology Association,


Gloster HM, Neal K. Skin cancer in skin of color. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006; 55:741-60:

Sun Safety Apparel

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Sun safety apparel is one of several ways to prevent sun exposure. All clothing that covers the skin is somewhat preventative, but UV protective clothing has been specially designed to filter out UV rays and offer extra protection.

Our Partners
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The below sun safety apparel options are provided as suggestions only and are not affiliated with or endorsed by Save Your Skin Foundation.


Sources: Health Canada – Canadian Cancer Society – Shade Foundation – BC Cancer Foundation

NOTE: The information on the Save Your Skin website is not intended to replace the medical advice of a doctor or healthcare provider. While we make every effort to ensure that the information on our site is as current as possible, please note that information and statistics are subject to change as new research and studies are published. Listed above are a few sources of information and support you might find useful. These groups are not necessarily connected to Save Your Skin Foundation. We are providing the links as useful sources of information but do not monitor content for accuracy and quality.

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