Caring for your skin (even during the winter)!

Are you missing the sun already? Going away to a sunny destination for spring break?


Exciting isn’t it?  Always keep in mind that there is a risk from exposing your skin to the sun. Did you know that 98% of Canadians will eventually develop skin cancer and that 80% of skin damage happens before the age of 18? Rest assured, there are a lot of things you can do to prevent skin cancer.

Types of skin cancer

There are several types of skin cancer:

The Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It is caused by long and repetitive sun exposure. It usually presents as a wound or a dry patch that never heals completely, and may bleed. It usually doesn’t metastasize, but can grow rather deep and reach the bone.


Squamous cell carcinoma is less common, but can metastasize. It is also caused by long and repetitive exposure to the sun.

 Squamous cell carcinoma

Melanoma is becoming more frequent and more deadly. It’s the most common cancer in women 25 to 30 years old! Skin melanoma is mainly caused by sunburn and genetics.  Every year, 1 out of 5 people will loose their battle with melanoma.


In 1974, dermatologists in Canada diagnosed 1947 cases of skin cancer, and in 2006 it rose to 26 335. However, all skin cancers can be detected early and can be cured almost 100%.

How to prevent skin cancer by choosing the proper protection

Sun block is extremely important in the prevention of skin cancer, but how do you know which one to choose?

  • First trick is to smell the cream. It might be a pleasant coconut smell, but perfume and sun do not go together. It can cause permanent pigmentation and skin irritation.
  • Secondly, a good sun block should contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide.
  • Third, apply sun block half an hour before sun exposure, and after swimming.
  • Fourth, the sun protection factor (SPF) stands for the delay in which the skin will be burned. You should choose a minimum of SPF 30.
Tanning beds

Did you think that going to a tanning bed would increase your tolerance to sun? WRONG! It only offers 2% sun protection but tremendously increases your risk of getting a skin cancer.

Skin cancers are mainly caused by sun exposure before the age of 18; it is for this reason that tanning beds are prohibited for this age group.

Skin examination

You must know that skin cancers can be flat or raised.

You can refer to the ABCDE below to check your skin. This is an easy way to evaluate your moles yourself. Remember, the best person to evaluate your moles is always a dermatologist.

A: Asymmetry, triangle and/or irregular shape.

B:  Border that is irregular or faded.

C: Color changes, black or many colors.

D: Diameter increasing or more than 6mm.

E: Evolution, visible growth within 1-2 months.


See a dermatologist if:

  • You have a mole or a lesion that doesn’t heal after 2 months and/or is bleeding.
  • You noticed some changes on a mole.
  • You have someone in your family that had a skin cancer. (You should have a preventative skin check up every year.)

Be aware that water, snow and even sand reflects the sun and can cause skin damage. Ask your pharmacist if any of your medication can cause sensitivity to the sun. Ultra violet rays can also reactivate labial herpes (cold sore). Don’t forget to choose sunglasses and a lip balm with an SPF protection as well. Also, remember to wear a hat and clothing with sun protection, please please please use proper SPF protection, and avoid tanning beds!!!

Now you can wisely enjoy your vacation in a sunny destination!!


J. Brisebois

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