SUN AND SKIN CANCER - Espace Skins Montreal


The sun – especially the excessive exposure to it – is the leading cause of skin cancer that has increased exponentially in the last 50 years in North America. 

What you need to know

 First of all, it is important to know that skin cancer is the most important cancer in Canada since it affects approximately 80,000 people per year. Also, when it comes to skin cancer, we often think about the famous melanomas. However, they only represent 10% of the problem and it’s rather the so-called basal cancers and squamous cancers that are the main skin cancers that affect us.

 But why did the number of skin cancers increased so drastically over the last 50 years in North America? It’s simple: our life habits have changed! Indeed, since the 70s, people in Nordic countries like ours frequently fly to destinations where the heat and the sun are not only present throughout the year, but where they are also much more intense than here.

 This causes a problem since with our very pale skin and since we live in a northern climate, we are not adapted to undergo prolonged exposure to sunlight, which makes us a lot more prone to develop skin cancer than people with darker or black skin. We can also think, for example, about the Scandinavian countries whose habitants are just as sensitive to the sun and prone to skin cancer as us because of their clear complexion.

 Thus, the problem doesn’t come from the pallor of our skin itself, but from the very bad habit that we have, since the last decades, to expose ourselves to the sun for long hours without protecting us adequately and seeking to tan. Indeed, if having a tanned skin makes the envy of many, this is not beneficial at all, on the contrary. If you don’t already know it, it’s the melanin that gives the tan desired by many, but it reflects, in reality, nothing less than an assault on the skin. In other words, melanin is produced when the skin is trying to protect itself from the sun which is an excessive external aggression and potentially dangerous for it.

 Another very important fact : 25% of our skin cells are already, just by our experiences from childhood, precancerous. Thus, when a person is excessively exposed to strong sun without a proper protection, such as when traveling in the south for example, she is worsening quite unnecessarily a situation that is already potentially risky. To give you an idea of the major impact that the sun has on our skin, it is powerful enough to cause mutations in our cells DNA, which is why it is so important to protect ourselves as adequately as possible.

A new attitude to adopt 

As you now know, our lifestyle is the primary responsible for the significant increase in skin cancer in the last 50 years. It’s actually our relation with the sun that we need to change in order to slow the progression of this disease in Canada. What does this imply? First, we have to stop tanning outside AND in cabins. Indeed, as you now know, our pale skin is not suitable to undergo lengthy sun exposure and they therefore are very harmful for us. Also, regarding the vitamin D that often serves as a pretext for sun exposure, it is relevant to know that an exposure of 10 to 15 minutes is more than enough to provide the necessary reserves to the body. 

In addition, it is recommended to avoid sun exposure as much as possible between 11h and 15h which is the time of day when the sun is the strongest and therefore, the most damaging to the skin. Of course, we know perfectly well that it’s not always possible to avoid sun exposure during this period of the day, so it’s appropriate to protect ourselves adequately during any sun exposure. Thus, in addition to stay in shade areas as much as possible, this also means wearing suitable clothing that will cover the most exposed areas (don’t forget the hats!) and frequently applying an adequate sunscreen. WARNING! A sunscreen should aim to adequately protect the skin from the sun and not be used to prolong exposure to ultraviolet rays!

If you are one of those persons who worship the sun and love lounging on beaches and pool sides, know that you are perfectly normal. Indeed, during sun exposure, our body produces endorphin which is the hormone associated with well-being. However, in light of the great risks involved in exposure to sunlight, it is appropriate to limit our exposure time as much as possible and to adequately protect ourselves at any time. Between us and you, it is very simple to protect ourselves effectively and we do it very well for our own children … Therefore, there is no logical reason not to do it for ourselves! 

Other adverse effects

 In addition of being responsible for skin cancer, the sun is also responsible for several undesirable effects on the skin. When we receive a new customer for a consultation, our first reaction is to give him all of the recommendations that you have read so far since the sun is responsible for a range of aesthetically undesirable skin conditions for which clients consult us everyday.

 We only have to think about dark spots as well as to premature aging of the skin to see that although the worst result the sun can have is skin cancer, it is also the worst enemy of a young and healthy skin. Moreover, as we explain to all our new customers, even if you invest time and money on beauty treatments and on quality products, you work backwards as long as you do not properly protect yourself of the sun. Thus, it is only after our client made the choice of adequately protect his skin that the real work begin and that the most impressive results are obtained.

 Also some of the care we provide at our clinic simply can not be performed on a person who does not protect from the sun. We refer to the laser treatments, which are laser hair removal and photorejuvenation, which have to be practiced on a skin that won’t be exposed to the sun for the whole treatment time in order to avoid burns.

 In resume, in addition to avoid skin cancer, it’s actually the quality and the youth of your skin that you will preserve by adequately protecting yourself from the sun. It is a simple habit that is well worth it if you consider the long-term positive effects that this will have on the appearance of your skin!

Some good sunscreen

 When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, a large variety of products are available. It is strongly recommended that you use a sunscreen that has a SPF of at least 30, that protects against UVA and UVB and that is paraben free. At Skins, we particularly like sunscreens that contain zinc oxide which is an ingredient that provides a maximum protection! It is also appropriate to make sure that the texture and the smell of the chosen cream will suit you because you will have to apply it several times during a day outside. Here are some sunscreens that we particularly like :

  • Physical Fusion • SkinCeuticals
  • Ultimate UV Defense • SkinCeuticals
  • Lotion Ultra-Fluide • Laroche Posay
  • Spray Haute Protection • Avène

In conclusion

As you now know, it is actually the sun exposure habits that have an impact on the risk that a person will develop a skin cancer. Of course, the idea is not to hide from the sun completely and to live like a vampire, but being aware of the important repercussions that may have UV on the skin, it is more than wise to avoid excessive sun exposure and to always protect ourselves properly!

If you want more information about skin cancer, here is a very interesting video of Dr. Richard Béliveau who explains everything there is to know about skin cancer :

You can also visit the website of the Canadian Society of Research on Cancer, which provides a lot of relevant information: