Enjoy the sun safely

Body showing that exposure to UV rays increases the risk of developing skin, eye and lip cancers

UV rays increase your risk of skin cancer

Exposure to UV rays raises your risk of developing both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, as well as eye cancer and lip cancer.
Body showing that exposure to UV rays increases the risk of developing skin, eye and lip cancers

Did you know?

About 65% of melanoma cases are due to UV radiation. Incidence rates of melanoma in Canada are among the highest in the world. Reduce your risk of skin cancer by being safe in the sun.

It's also important to know the signs of skin cancer. Most skin cancers can be cured if they’re caught early enough. Check your skin regularly and talk to your doctor about any changes to your skin.

The 6 best ways to be sun safe

The best way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer is to protect yourself from UV rays all year round. Practise SunSense – watch the video and follow the 6 tips below to protect yourself from the sun.
UV index and exposure table: 0 to 2 low, 3 to 5 moderate, 6 to 7 high, 8 to 10 very high, 11 plus extreme

Check the UV Index every day

On days when the UV Index reaches 3 (moderate) or more, you need to be extra careful to protect your skin. Try to reduce your time in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. – when the sun’s rays are at their strongest – or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or more.

Seek shade

If your shadow is shorter than you, find some shade because this means the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Sit under a tree at the park or under an awning on a restaurant patio. Bring an umbrella for on-the-go protection. If you can see the sky from your shady spot, you still need to cover up with clothing, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. UV rays can reach you in the shade by reflecting off the surfaces around you.

Cover up

Did you know that clothes protect you better than sunscreen? Cover up as much of your skin as you can with clothing that is made from tightly woven fabric. Or look for clothing that is labelled with a UPF (UV protection factor).

Slap on a hat

Wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers your head, face, ears and neck.

Wear sunglasses

Sunglasses don’t have to cost a lot to work well, but make sure you choose close-fitting ones with UVA and UVB protection in a wraparound style. The label might have UV 400 or 100% UV protection.

Use sunscreen properly

Sunscreen absorbs UV rays and prevents them from penetrating the skin. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. It’s important to apply a generous amount of sunscreen to any skin not covered by clothing. If you’re going in the water, make sure your sunscreen is also water-resistant. Remember, use sunscreen along with shade, clothing and hats, not instead of them. Find more tips on using sunscreen.

A closer look at UV rays

Did you know that there are 3 types of ultraviolet (UV) rays?
Ultraviolet A rays (UVA)

UVA rays make up most of the sun’s natural light. They can penetrate deep into the skin and cause wrinkles and premature aging of the skin.

Ultraviolet B rays (UVB)
UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn. They are nearly 1,000 times stronger than UVA rays.
Ultraviolet C rays (short-wave radiation)
These rays never reach the earth’s surface because the atmosphere filters them out.

Fast facts about UV rays

  • UV rays can get through clouds, fog and haze.
  • Water, sand, concrete and especially snow reflect the sun’s rays – and make them even stronger.
  • We’re exposed to more UV rays as the protective layer of ozone around the earth becomes thinner.
  • The main source of UV radiation is the sun, but indoor tanning beds and sun lamps are also sources.

The UV Index is a useful tool when it comes to protecting yourself from the sun. It tells you the strength of the sun’s daily UV rays that reach the earth’s surface – the higher the number, the stronger the sun’s rays and the more important it is to protect yourself. In Canada between April and September, the UV Index can be 3 or more from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., even when it’s cloudy. On these days, you need to be extra careful to protect your skin. Here’s how to find your UV Index.

Sun safety tips for babies and children

Children spend a lot more time outside than adults, and they need to be protected from the sun’s rays. Teaching your kids about sun safety helps them reduce their risk of skin cancer throughout their lives.

Parent with two babies on a beach

Protecting your baby

  • Keep babies out of direct sunlight.
  • Use clothing that covers their arms and legs – and don’t forget a hat.
  • Keep them protected in a covered stroller, under an umbrella or in the shade. This can also help prevent dehydration and sunstroke.
Parent with two babies on a beach

Is sunscreen safe for babies?

If your baby is less than 6 months old, check with a healthcare professional before using sunscreen.

For babies 6 months of age and older, it’s OK to use a small amount of sunscreen on exposed skin (such as their face and the back of their hands). Protective clothing and shade are better protection from the sun, but using a small amount of sunscreen is better than risking a sunburn, which can be serious for a baby. Make sure to test a small amount on your baby’s inner arm to see if the skin reacts to the product before using it on other exposed skin.

Protecting your toddler or child

Provide shade in their play area. Try a large umbrella if there are no trees.
Try to keep toddlers and children out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the rays are at their strongest, or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or more.
Send your kids to school or outside to play in protective clothing, such as a loose-fitting T-shirt and a wide-brimmed hat (which provides more protection than a baseball cap). Don’t forget about protecting their shoulders and necks as these areas burn easily.
Always apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher on any exposed skin not covered by their clothing. Reapply often and don’t forget their nose, ears and cheeks and the tops of their feet.
If they’re playing in or near water, make sure the sunscreen is water-resistant and reapply often. Also make sure they put on dry clothing after playing in water as wet clothing can lose up to half of its UV protection.
As soon as they can wear sunglasses, get them a pair of close-fitting, wraparound sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
Don’t use baby oil as a moisturizer before your child goes outside. The oil will make the effect of the sun stronger and could cause your child to burn.