A new survey from the Canadian Dermatology Association suggests Canadians frequently fail to take the necessary steps to reduce their risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.
As the CDA acknowledges World Melanoma Day on May 13, the organization is urging Canadians to adopt sun-safe practices that will better protect them against melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
The latest CDA sun safe behaviour survey shows that Canadians continue to have misconceptions about certain sun smart practices.
"This gap between knowledge and behaviour on some sun-protection measures is a matter of concern for dermatologists," said Dr. Jennifer Beecker, National Chair of the CDA Sun Awareness Working Group in a press release. "As we gear up for the summer months, when Canadians spend more time outdoors and increase their exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, our profession wants to raise awareness about sun safety and also dispel some common misconceptions."
According to the CDA, the incidence of melanoma has steadily increased in Canada for the past several decades. From 1992 to 2013, the incidence rates of melanoma went up 2.1% per year for men, and 2.0% for women.
In 2017 the Canadian Cancer Society estimated 7,200 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer and 1,250 Canadians died from the disease.
"As the incidence of melanoma continues to rise, the CDA wants to reinforce the message that sun-safe behaviours are very important for prevention," CDA President Dr. Neil Shear said. "We are also stressing the need to seek your dermatologist's advice as soon as you notice worrisome skin changes. While melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it is highly treatable when discovered early."
The CDA has conducted its sun safe behaviour survey annually since 2015. The most recent survey included a representative sample of 1,204 Canadians age 16 and older who were polled in September 2018.
The survey, which was fielded on Ipsos' Canadian online omnibus, included the following positive findings:
Sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging rank as the top three sun-exposure concerns among Canadians and they are most concerned about the risk of skin cancer.
The percentage of Canadians who say it is important to stay out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. has increased significantly since 2017.
Three-quarters of Canadians say it is important to use sunscreen, and close to 90% report using sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Seven in ten agree it is important to wear sun-protective clothing.
Nearly 6 in 10 Canadians say that they conduct self-examinations of their skin, with a third saying that they ask their doctor/dermatologist to conduct skin examinations.
The sun safe behaviour survey also uncovered the following concerns:
Two out of 10 Canadians use sunscreen daily.
There has been a significant increase in the false belief that some sun exposure without sunscreen is needed to meet the recommended vitamin D requirement.
Although nine out of 10 respondents agreed that too much exposure to sunlight can damage their eyes, the proportion of Canadians who say they wear sunglasses with UV protective lenses when outdoors, all year round, is down significantly from 2017.
The percentage of respondents who believe that getting a sunburn is the first step to getting a tan has increased significantly from 2017. The CDA stresses that sunburn can increase the risk of melanoma and should be avoided.
In an effort to reduce melanoma risk, the CDA recommends the following:
Seek shade between 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Wear protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and UV-protective sunglasses.
Wear sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30.
Early detection is key, and people should regularly perform skin evaluation and see a certified dermatologist if a suspicious lesion is spotted.
World Melanoma Day is marked annually around the globe on the second Monday in May. May is also recognized as Melanoma Awareness Month.