Skin Cancer Awareness: How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

Choose the right sunscreen - skin cancer awareness

Did you know skin cancer is the most common type of cancer? It accounts for approximately one-third of all cancer diagnoses in Canada! Numbers have been consistently increasing over the last 30 years. It is more important than ever to learn safe sun practices and choose the right sunscreen for you and your family.

Many of these cases are basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma and can be treated quickly in your doctor’s office. Melanoma is the most dangerous but treatable if caught early, so it’s crucial to screen and protect your skin regularly.

Based on current rates, one in 73 Canadian women and one in 59 Canadian men will develop melanoma in their lifetime.

The good news? You can take measures to protect your skin and drastically reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.

Protect Your Skin from the Sun’s Rays!   

  • Regularly apply SPF 15 daily for occasional sun exposure
  • Use SPF 30 for extended outdoor activities such as going to the beach, hiking, or biking
  • Apply a separate sunscreen to your face (the amount in makeup is often not a high enough concentration)
  • Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours and more often if swimming or sweating
  • Cover up and seek shade if out in the sun all day
  • Know what to look for and check yourself regularly
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun if the UV index is 3 or greater
  • Whenever possible, plan to get outdoor chores done either before 11 am or after 3 pm

How to Choose the Right Sunscreen

There are two main types of sunscreens – mineral-based and chemical-based.

Mineral-based Sunscreens

Mineral-based sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that sit on top of your skin to form a barrier against UV rays. They can be better for sensitive skin (if you are allergic to ingredients in chemical sunscreens) but take longer to apply and often leave behind a white residue.

Chemical-based sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens are made from ingredients such as avobenzone or oxybenzone, which absorb the sun’s rays. They are more popular than mineral-based products because they are mostly transparent and easier to use, coming in many forms such as lotions, sprays, sticks or gels.

If choosing a chemical-based sunscreen, opt for one without oxybenzone or octinoxate, as these two ingredients are known to damage coral reefs. Get your hands on reef-friendly sunscreen like the one from Neora.

When picking your products, choose a broad spectrum to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays and go with at least SPF 30. This number marks the level of protection against UVB rays. SPF 15 filters out about 93%, SPF 30 around 97%, and SPF 50 about 98%. The higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes.

And always grab a separate sunscreen for your face, choosing a non-comedogenic version if you have oily or acne-prone skin. The amount of sunscreen in your moisturizer or makeup is not enough, and experts recommend using a separate product for best safe-sun practices.

Skin Cancer Facts

The more we know about skin cancer and its various forms, the better we will be at protecting ourselves. Knowledge is power!

  • Skin cancer accounts for one in three cancer diagnoses worldwide (80-90%) caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • The 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99% when detected early.
  • Canadians born in the 1990s have a 2-3 times higher risk of getting skin cancer in their lifetimes (1 in 6 people) than those born in the 1960s (1 in 20).
  • Melanoma is the third most common form of cancer in Canadian women ages 15‐29.

Source: Government of Canada

How to Self-Screen for Sun Damage  

Because early detection is critical – regular self-checks are recommended. While most spots, moles and growths on the skin are harmless, some may be signs of a more severe problem.

Spots often show up in areas regularly exposed to the sun but can also be found on your underarms, genitals, and the soles of your feet, so be thorough!

Look for these “ABCDE” warning signs:

Asymmetry. If you drew a line in the middle of a mole, would both halves look the same?

Borders. Are the edges uneven, scalloped or notched?

Colours. Is it one solid colour, or are there many shades?

Diameter. Is the mole bigger than 6mm? (Roughly the size of a pencil eraser or larger)

Evolution. Have there been changes in size, shape, or colour?

Every May is skin cancer awareness month. To protect ourselves and our future generations, we must continue to spread awareness and keep the discussion going. Be sure to regularly screen for signs of skin damage, choose the right sunscreen for YOU, and remember to slather it on before you head outside.


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