With summer at its prime, most of us like to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors soaking up the sun. But before heading out, it's important to be aware that sun exposure has both positive and negative effects.
Positive effects include warmth, light, and vitamin D3 synthesis in the body. Sunlight also enhances people's moods and kills pathogens. Too much sun however can have negative effects like sunburn, premature aging, skin cancers, eye problems, and immune suppression (Health Canada).
Common myths about tanning include:
- Having a tan is healthy...To the contrary. When your skin colour changes, it's damaged and that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.
- My tan protects me from the sun... Unfortunately not. A tan offers almost no protection from sunlight or burning.
- I'll get my vitamin D by going to the tanning salon... Tanning beds are not a safe way to get your vitamin D. It is safer to get it from the sun, supplements and your diet.
Speaking of tanning beds (also called sunbeds)...the World Health Organization upgraded the classification of UV-emitting devices, such as tanning beds, from a probable carcinogen to a known carcinogen. In other words, we now know for a fact that they cause cancer and research shows that being exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Both the Canadian Dermatology Association and the Canadian Cancer Society strongly push for a ban on indoor tanning by teens.
So how can you have fun in the sun and still be safe? First of all, respect and love your skin and don't give in to dangerous fashion trends that advertise deep tanned skin. When out in the sun, follow these safe SunSense practices:
- cover up - wear a wide brimmed hat and loose, tighly woven lightweight clothing
- wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection
- use sunscreen with a minimum 15 SPF (Sun Protection Factor)
- avoid indoor tanning devices
- check your skin regularly and report any changes to your doctor
For more information, check out one of our books on sun safety and skin cancer from the TPL: