Where you live could affect your risk of skin cancer: StatsCan

Statistics Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society are urging Canadians to be aware of the UV index as they head out for the long weekend.

New statistics compiled by Statistics Canada show that there are more instances of skin cancer in places where the UV index is higher in the summer.

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“The overall risk of melanoma increases by 22 per cent for each (Ultraviolet Radiation) zone,” a release from StatsCan reads.

“For example, residents of Toronto had a 16% higher risk than residents of Montréal, and residents of Calgary had a 38% higher risk than residents of Edmonton.”

Map of UVR zones in Canada


According to a separate survey commissioned the Canadian Cancer Society, 41 per cent of Canadians don’t pay attention to the daily UV index, and that’s a number that has the organization worried.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canada, and the society says it’s only getting more prevalent. Last year, there were about 6,800 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in Canada.

“Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise in Canada. About 90 per cent of melanoma cancer cases are due to UV exposure from the sun or tanning beds,” Robert Nuttall, the Canadian Cancer Society’s assistant director of health policy, said in a statement.

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He says the best thing to do is educate yourself — right now almost half of Canadians believe the sun is the safest source to get Vitamin D. But that’s not actually the case.

“Getting your vitamin D from your diet (many foods are fortified with vitamin D) or by taking vitamin supplements is safer than UV-ray exposure,” the website for the society reads.

Three-quarters of those surveyed also believe that getting a little bit of colour from the sun makes them “look healthy,” and almost a third of respondents said they like to get a deep tan.

But, as the organization states: “There’s no safe way to get a tan. Tanned skin is damaged skin.”

And getting a tan from tanning beds is also unsafe. A report from January said 1.35 million Canadians still use tanning beds, despite their association with skin cancer.


“Tanning beds can give off almost five times more radiation than the sun, and that radiation causes skin cancer,” Nuttall told Global News at the time.

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The statistics also show that men are at a higher risk than women: for each UV zone increase shown in the map above, the risk increases by 26 per cent for men, while it only increases 17 per cent for women.

A few reasons for this were given, including the fact that women were more likely to protect themselves from the sun.

The survey also said 46 per cent of men didn’t pay attention to the UV index, compared to 37 per cent of women.

Younger people are less likely to pay attention to the UV index.

“Now more than ever, we need to increase awareness of sun safety, so that fewer people will be impacted by skin cancer,” Nuttall said.

Recommendations include using sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 or higher, and limiting the amount of time spent in the sun when the UV index is three or higher.

Canadians are also urged to wear wide-brimmed hats and tightly woven clothing.

— With files from Carmen Chai. 

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