As folks head outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather, they’re being reminded of the need to be sun safe.
Kathleen Barnard, founder of the Save Your Skin Foundation, is urging community members to take steps to prevent skin cancer.
“Over-exposure to UV radiation is leading cause of melanoma and melanoma skin cancers,” she said. “Though skin cancer should be largely preventable, the diagnosis rates are increasing. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. One in six Canadians born in the 1990s will get skin cancer in their lifetime. There are more new cases of skin cancer each year than the number of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined.”
In 2006, Barnard formed the Save Your Skin Foundation, a non-profit, registered charity dedicated to the fight against melanoma and skin cancers through nationwide education, advocacy and awareness initiatives.
“In 2003, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 malignant melanoma, and by 2005 my cancer had spread to my vital organs, and my treatment options were limited. I was given three to six months,” she recently told city council. “Fortunately, I was able to access a clinical trial in 2005, and another in 2007, in Alberta. These treatments saved my life.”
While her cancer treatments have finished, Barnard said her battle to prevent skin cancer and melanoma continues through the Save Your Skin Foundation.
“While most forms of non-melanoma skin cancers can be surgically removed, melanoma is an aggressive form of cancer. The five-year relative survival rate of melanoma that has metastasized is 18%,” she said. “Despite these figures, many people seek sun without taking the advised precautionary measures, or believe that only severe sunburns contribute to one’s risk of skin cancer. In fact, any darkening of skin colour, including a tan, is indicative of UV damage.”
The City of New Westminster has proclaimed May as Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
“As we move into spring and summer, we know the weather is going to start to improve,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote. “I think we are all itching to get outside more, but this is an important message and a good time to remind people to stay sun safe.”
Barnard said it’s imperative that communities across Canada be reminded of importance of sun safety at this time of year, and that citizens be informed and vigilant about the potential risks of overexposure to UV radiation.
“Limit your sun exposure between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Use a wide-brimmed hat, as well as clothing, to shade the skin. And don’t forget those sunglasses,” she urged. “Use an SPF 30 or higher, and don’t forget to apply to your face, neck, ears and feet. Try to plan activities in the shade. Stay safe.”