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CDA urges Canadians to reduce their risk for melanoma

With Monday, May 11 marking World Melanoma Day the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) is highlighting facts about melanoma, including its rising incidence rates among Canadians. As Canadians forced indoors to reduce the spread of Covid-19 will soon likely look to spend more time outside, the CDA is reminding everyone that melanoma is one of the few types of cancer that continues to increase in incidence each year.

The CDA released new public opinion research on Canadians’ knowledge and behaviours with regard to preventing skin cancer on its website. The CDA’s new Sun Safe Behaviour Survey contains positive results but also reveals concerning trends. The questions for the survey were fielded online by Ipsos between Sept. 6 to 12, 2019, to a representative sample of 1,228 Canadians, age 16 years and older.

Positive Findings:

  • 93% agree it is essential to protect your skin from the sun

  • 88% of those who use sunscreen use SPF 30 or higher

  • 76% say using sunscreen is important

  • 72% wear sunglasses with UV protective lenses all year when outdoors

  • 70% apply sunscreen when going outdoors

  • 64% are concerned about the risk of skin cancer from sun exposure—up from 59% in 2018

Findings of concern:

  • 81% find sunscreen safe to use—down from 85% in 2018.

  • 78% are concerned about skin damage from sun’s UV rays—down from 82% last year.

  • 54% look for skincare products with SPF, down from 60% last year and the lowest level in 5 years.

  • 53% try not to expose themselves to the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.—down from 59% in 2018

  • 41% of 16- and 17-year-olds list skin cancer as their top concern compared to 58% of Canadians 55 years and older.

  • 21% use sunscreen all year round—down from 26% in 2018.

“Our research shows that many Canadians still have misconceptions about what they can do to reduce their risk of melanoma from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation,” said Dr. Jennifer Beecker in a press release. Dr. Beecker is the National Chair of the CDA Sun Awareness Working Group. “And even when they do understand the safe approach, they do not always translate that knowledge into action.

“It is natural that Canadians living with stay-at-home measures for many weeks see spring’s arrival as a chance to spend more time outside. The country’s certified dermatologists want to reinforce that a few simple protective steps can make that time safe and enjoyable.”

The CDA reminds Canadians to take the following steps in an effort to minimize melanoma risk:

  • 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. Canadians should regularly perform a skin self-evaluation and see a dermatologist if something suspicious arises.

According to 2019 and 2020 Canadian Cancer Society data, melanoma is an increasing threat. Cases of melanoma have consistently increased in Canada for several decades. While some types of cancer are decreasing each year—examples include laryngeal cancer for both sexes, lung cancer in males, and cervical cancer in females—melanoma continues to increase annually.

Since 1994, the incidence rates of melanoma went up 2.2% per year for men and 2% for women. Canadian Cancer Society figures show that in 2020, an estimated 8,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer and 1,300 Canadians will die from the disease.

“Canada’s certified dermatologists are committed to educating the public about sun safety, all year long,” said Dr. Kerri Purdy, president of the CDA. “That is because sun exposure is a risk factor for melanoma and other skin cancers and with knowledge, Canadians have the power to reduce their risks.

“While melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it is highly treatable when discovered early. We are also stressing the importance of monitoring your skin and to seek your dermatologist’s advice as soon as you notice worrisome changes.”

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