Dr. Rivers on CTV: How to prevent sun damage before it's too late

By Pacific Derm on July 13 2020

CTV news header - How to prevent sun damage before it's too late

VANCOUVER — Take a look in the mirror – a really good look. What’s staring back at you is likely sun damage. Even on cloudy days, you need to protect yourself from the sun, something Dr. Jason Rivers says is crucial.

“One person every eight hours dies of skin cancer in Canada,” he told McLaughlin On Your Side when Ross had his skin checked last week.

Dr. Rivers, at his PacificDerm office, used a UV photo to demonstrate the cumulative damage to Ross’ skin.

“It’s a really graphic representation of what the sun can do to your skin.”

The photo highlighted a red, dry spot on Ross’ face, which Dr. Rivers said is called actinic keratosis.

“It’s not a cancer of the skin, but it’s a pre-cancer,” he said, and it’s caused by too much time in the sun without much protection – like sunscreen.

Ross McLaughlin - normal and UV photo

Dr. Rivers is also president of the Canadian Dermatology Association, which is committed to educating people about the importance of proper protection.

“People are always wondering which sunscreens do you use,” he said. “UVA, UVB means it’s broad spectrum protection.”

UVB rays are responsible for the burning effects of the sun, while UVA rays play a greater role in premature aging and wrinkles.

“Both rays, however, can contribute to skin cancer formation,” Dr. Rivers said.

UVA rays vary in the summer but even on a cloudy day you can burn. And as for UVAs?

“UVA is fairly consistent throughout the year,” Dr. Rivers says. “Sunscreen use can be beneficial year-round.”

And did you know that you can still be exposed to UVA rays while sitting by a window? While glass blocks UVB rays, UVA can still get through, which is why many people may have more freckles on the left side of their face because of UVA exposure while driving.

The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher. And look for the association’s logo on the product – they’re tested and approved.

Dr. Rivers said people often don’t apply enough sunscreen – only a quarter to a half of what they actually need. It takes about one fluid ounce for proper coverage of the whole body. That’s about six teaspoons.

“In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

As for the chemicals in sunscreens, Dr. Rivers says there’s little evidence showing there’s any real danger. But if you’re concerned, try zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

He also suggests buying a sunscreen that you’ll actually feel comfortable wearing. If you have oily skin, you probably don’t want a base that looks or feels greasy, and the opposite is true for dry skin – you want some moisture.

Don’t forget to keep skin covered in the sun, even if you are wearing sunscreen. Wear wide-brim hats, sunglasses to protect your eyes, and avoid peak hours of sun.

And as for Ross?

“Your skin is getting to the point now where you’re not able to repair the damage that well,” Dr. Rivers said.

A bit of a blow.

For more information on sunscreen and UV protection click here. https://dermatology.ca/public-patients/sun-protection/sunscreen-faq/