Here Comes the Sun

Here comes the sun…It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.

Many Canadians are ready for an end to this long, cold and uniquely lonely winter of physical distancing and working from home.

As the warm and sunny weather arrives, the first thing on many people’s mind will be to get outdoors. In fact, sun exposure and time spent outdoors (if you are able to maintain 2 meters of distance with others – of course!) may be an antidote to some of the mental health challenges of physical distancing and staying indoors. Exposure to sunlight is believed to increase the brain chemical, serotonin, and higher levels of serotonin are associated with better mood, feelings of calmness, and lower levels of anxiety and depression.

But, will more time spent outdoors come without any risks? No, says the Save Your Skin Foundation.

Over 80,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada every year. Skin cancer can be a particularly aggressive cancer that afflicts working aged adults – and is thus an important workplace health concern.

The most dangerous form of skin cancer, Melanoma, is the most common form of cancer for Canadians aged 15-49. The majority of sun damage occurs before the age of 18, therefore, workplaces should also be thinking about how their employee’s families may be affected.  Bh covered this important topic last year where we delved into the risks of sun damage and shared some personal stories of Canadians suffering with this illness.

The good news? All forms of skin cancer are preventable and treatable. Avoiding sun damage is the most important thing we can do to prevent skin cancer.

May 13-19 marks this year’s National Sun Awareness Week. The Canadian dermatological association will be harnessing our increasingly virtual lifestyles to deliver new, topical content each day featuring presentations by experts, resources and sun safe behaviour data presented throughout the week.

For those currently living with Melanoma or other forms of skin cancer, the Save Your Skin Foundation now has a resource hub to provide support during this particularly challenging time and virtual support groups are also available through the Melanoma Network of Canada.

With summer just around the corner and employees likely feeling anxious to get outside with their families, now is the time for employers to be thinking ahead about protecting and empowering their employees in the sun.

What can individuals do to reduce their risk?

  • Always have sunscreen on hand so that it can be applied when unplanned, outdoor activities arise.
  • Use a minimum SPF 30+ sunscreen 20 minutes before exposure and reapply every 2 hours.
  • Wear clothing that helps protect you from the sun including sunglasses, hats, and long sleeves.
  • Limit exposure during the peak hours of 11am-3pm.
  • Monitor your skin for any changes and consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

What can employers do to empower their employees?

  • Educate employees about skin self-examination. Offer workplace education and screening programs.
  • Encourage employees to prioritize their family’s sun safety as well, given that preventing sun exposure before 18 years of age is so critical.
  • Get involved in community events to support the fight against skin cancer, such as the largest walk for melanoma in Canada held each September, Strides for Melanoma.
  • For workplaces where outdoor labour is part of the job, employers must provide proper sun protection training and materials and ensure this is communicated and reinforced regularly.
  • Employees should work in the shade when available, have full body coverage clothing including full-brimmed hats, long sleeves and long pants made of tightly woven fabrics, and wear full spectrum sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays, SPF 30+ sunscreen, and lip balm with an SPF of 15+. bh

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