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Sunscreens have been proven to be safe and effective, but they have to be applied – and reapplied – correctly.

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School is out; it’s time for fun. But how do Canadian youth measure up when it comes to awareness about the risks of exposing their skin to ultraviolet (UV) radiation?

Among Ontario youth aged 15 to 29, there are large gaps in understanding about the impacts of sun exposure on skin health as well as in the knowledge and attitudes towards sun safety and protection, according to a recent study by the Melanoma Network of Canada.

In addition, the survey found that Ontario youth lack confidence in their knowledge about melanoma and how to detect it.

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The leading cause of melanoma, one of the fastest growing cancers worldwide, is overexposure to UV radiation. “It is estimated that 7,600 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and it is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among youth aged 15 to 29,” says Annette Cyr, founder and chair of the board of the Melanoma Network of Canada and a three-time melanoma survivor. “Yet it is also one of the most preventable cancers – but only if individuals are practicing proactive, early prevention tactics.”

Yet according to survey results, fewer than half of Ontario youth feel confident in their ability to recognize melanoma; only three in 10 check their skin monthly and 25 per cent do not check their skin at all.

And two-thirds acknowledge that while they know sun safety is important, they don’t always take the appropriate steps to protect themselves.

“Improving knowledge of sun safety and melanoma is important to increasing the frequency of sun protection behaviours,” said Dr. Elaine McWhirter, staff medical oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre and associate professor at McMaster University. “We need to arm our youth with greater knowledge of sun safety practices, so they themselves can regularly engage in sun safety behaviours.”

Committed to raising awareness about sun safety and early melanoma detection and preventative measures, the Melanoma Network of Canada wants to remind all Canadians, including youth, that it is important to stay safe in the sun.

Cyr says, “Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays and regularly checking your skin for signs of melanoma should be part of an overall wellness strategy.”


Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation

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