It’s summer time and the living’s easy. After a long, gloomy winter, many of us are eager to get outside and enjoy the sun. But with skin cancer now the most prevalent form of cancer in Canada, how can we enjoy the summer and be sun safe at the same time?
What you might not know is that many common sunscreens contain chemicals linked to cancer and disruption of your body’s hormone balance. They also might not work as well as you thought. Although sunscreen is designed to keep us safe from the effects of the sun, studies have detected sunscreen chemicals present in mothers’ breast milk, putting developing fetuses and newborns at risk of exposure to these chemicals.
Luckily, there are many non-toxic ways to stay sun safe in the summer. For instance, avoid sunscreens made with oxybenzone and octinoxate. Oxybenzone can affect the endocrine system which is particularly problematic for pregnant women, infants, and teens undergoing puberty. Octinoxate can negatively affect the reproductive system, thyroid, and cause behavioural alterations. For a healthy choice, sunscreens comprised of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone and mexoryl SX are considered to be safe and there is no evidence of hormone disruption associated with these chemicals.
How you apply sunscreen is also important. Even if you’re using sweat/water resistant or high SPF sunscreen, it still needs to be reapplied every two hours in order to remain effective. If possible you should avoid sun exposure between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm when the sun is at its strongest. The World Health Organization reminds caregivers that children and infants are more vulnerable to sun damage so their sun exposure should be limited. For people sunbathing or working around the yard, it is important to remember to apply sunscreen on your back.
Of course the easiest way to avoid sun exposure is to cover up and it’s possible be to be stylish at the same time. Chambray shirts are in style this season and the long sleeves can protect your arms and torso while hats can provide protection for your head and face.
It’s tempting to forego sun protection to get that sun-kissed glow but staying sun safe greatly eliminates your risk of skin cancer and will ensure the living is easy for years to come.