What I’m about to reveal is beauty-editor blasphemy, but here goes: I love the sun. I always have. Throughout the summers of my childhood, I lived in the pool. And when I wasn’t splashing around, my friends and I would play outside for hours dodging the sunscreen our mothers tried to coat us with.

For me, it was a badge of honour when, in Grade 7, I returned from a family holiday at Disney World with my face peeling. I used tanning beds before proms and formals in high school and, I’m sad to admit, well into my early 20s before vacations down south.

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That all changed a few years ago, Noticing that the wrinkles and sun spots now appearing on parts of my face weren’t cropping up on the foreheads of my sun-avoidant friends, my affection for heat-seeking has gone cold. These days, I wear a hat even if I’m going out for groceries. I slather on a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and big sunglasses. It may look glam, but really it’s purely practical – and for good reason.

A report released this month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States says cases of melanoma (a rare but most deadly form of skin cancer) doubled from 1982 to 2011. Nine times out of 10, these cases are caused by damage to the skin cells from too much sun.

Over-tanning is catching up to us in Canada too. According to 2014 figures from the Canadian Dermatology Association, every year the number of Canadians diagnosed with melanoma increases – about 1.3 per cent for women and 1.6 per cent for men. (This at a time when instances of many other cancers are declining.) Young women are especially at risk: melanoma is the third most common type of cancer for women aged 15 to 29.

To combat this, more education is required, argues the report from the CDC, which suggest cancer-prevention programs could prevent 230,000 cases of melanoma in the U.S. and save $2.7 billion in treatment costs by 2030. Melanoma is highly curable if treated early.

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Dr. Anatoli Freiman, dermatologist and medical director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre recommends giving yourself regular exams–inspecting the body for changes in moles or the sudden growth of sores or skin discolourations. See your doctor for regular checkups if you are high risk (people with fair skin that burns or freckles instead of tans; blondes and red heads; those with many moles and people with a history of sun exposure or family history of melanoma).

He also suggests staying out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., wearing a hat and sunglasses and sporting a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30.


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