By: Genia Kuypers, Anna O’Brien, Leigha Vegh
May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and with the weather reaching a high of 29 C today in Toronto, concerns about skin cancer and the application of sunscreen should be at the top of people’s minds, experts say.
Julie Daniluk, a nutritionist, who has co-hosted a cooking show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, is an advocate for safe sun practice after her parents experienced the disease.
“My mom had skin cancer [and] my dad has had skin cancer, so it’s huge awareness for me,” said Daniluk. “People have to cover up, put a huge brim hat on, and wear [sunscreen].”
It is estimated that in 2016 6,800 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer according to a study by Canadian Cancer Statistics. The numbers are only on the rise for the cancer that ranks 15 on the list of cancers leading to death, the study shows.
“We need a wakeup call across the country that sun safety needs to be taken seriously,” said Annette Cyr, the Chair and Founder of the Melanoma Network of Canada. “The rates of melanoma have tripled in the last 10 years, and there are more and more people in their 20’s and 30’s that are getting it.”
Retired realtor Sebastiano Laglialunga is not wearing sunscreen while he strolls on the Toronto Beaches boardwalk under the hot sun on May 17. Laglialunga travels south twice a year just to soak up the sun, but he says he’s never once applied sunscreen.
“If I burned, I would use [sunscreen], but I don’t burn,” he said. “I smoke cigarettes so I got (sic) more concern about lung cancer than skin cancer.”
“A lot of people think that because they tan or they have a darker complexion that they don’t need to protect their skin from the sun, but that could not be further from the truth,” said Cyr. “Any change of colour to the skin is damage and they are not immune to skin cancer.”
Jordan McNabb, a self-proclaimed traveller wears SPF 50 and reapplies for aesthetic reasons. “I got tired of being sunburnt,” he said.
He said skin cancer is not concerning at a young age, although it might be in the future.
“As you get older I’m sure it will, but like, not right now,” he said.
“Practising safe sun exposure is crucial for days like today,” says Cyr. “I would advise everyone to seek shade for the peak hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.”
A regular t-shirt is not enough to save your skin, according to the Melanoma Network of Canada. The darker the colour and the tighter the weave of the fabric, the harder time UV Rays will have getting to the skin.
All practises should be used together to ensure sufficient sun safety. With melanoma becoming more common, the network says it should be a major concern for people of all ages.
“Not to say people shouldn’t be carefree and have fun outdoors,” said Cyr. “But in regards to skin cancer, the message isn’t out there, and we need to make sure we’re not forgetting to pack our sunscreen.”