Sun Safety and Tanning Beds

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or from tanning beds or other indoor tanning devices can lead to sunburns, skin cancer, eye damage and more. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada, and rates are increasing. Skin cancer and eye damage from UV rays can be prevented.

Risks of UV exposure

Exposure to UV rays from the sun or from tanning devices can lead to:

  • Sunburns
  • Wrinkles
  • Skin damage
  • Skin cancer
  • Eye lesions
  • Cataracts
  • Retinal burns

Who’s at risk?

Young people and children

  • Children are often outside when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the strongest.
  • Over half of Ontario children spend at least 2 hours in the sun on a typical summer day.
  • Children’s eyes have large pupils and clear lenses, allowing a lot of sunlight to enter.
  • UV rays can harm the eyes at any time of day and all year round, even when it’s cloudy.

People participating in outdoor sports and recreation

  • Outdoor sports are often held when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are very strong.
  • Water, sand, concrete and snow can reflect and increase the sun’s UV rays.
  • Most people get their most serious sunburn while participating in outdoor recreational activities.

Outdoor workers

  • Outdoor workers often work when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their strongest.
  • Outdoor workers are up to 2.5 to 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancers.
  • Reflective surfaces (e.g., asphalt, concrete, sand, water, snow) can increase the harmful effects of UV rays.

People who use tanning beds or other indoor tanning devices

  • Note: It’s illegal for people under 18 to use tanning beds in Ontario.
  • Young people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of UV rays.
  • Using indoor tanning devices before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
  • One indoor tanning session can increase the risk of skin cancer.

Enjoy the sun safely

  • Time of day: If you can, limit time in the sun when the UV Index is 3 or higher, usually between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Outdoor workers may adjust their work schedules to limit time in the sun.
  • Shade: Seek shade or make shade by using an umbrella, a UV protective tent or pop-up shade shelter. Keep babies younger than 1 year of age out of direct sunlight.
  • Clothing: Wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible or UV-protective clothing. Wear a wide brimmed hat or baseball cap with flaps that cover the head, neck and ears. Outdoor workers may attach a back flap to a construction helmet to cover the back of the neck and ears, and a visor to shade the face.
  • Sunscreen: Apply plenty of sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, labelled ‘broad spectrum’ and ‘water resistant’. Reapply when needed (especially after swimming, sweating, or towelling). Use a sunscreen lip balm. Sunscreen may be used on babies over six months of age; avoid the mouth and eye areas.
  • Sunglasses: Wear close-fitting/wrap-around sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% UV protection. Children’s and babies’ sunglasses should be unbreakable.

Sunscreen

  • Sunscreen is safe to use. Health Canada regulates the safety, effectiveness, and quality of sunscreens in Canada. No published studies have shown that sunscreen is toxic to humans or hazardous to human health. Sunscreen may be used on babies over six months; avoid the mouth and eye areas.
  • Read the label and try it out. Use a sunscreen that’s labelled SPF 30 or higher, ‘broad spectrum’ (UVA and UVB protection), and ‘water resistant’. Choose one that you like and find easy to use.
  • Use on skin that isn’t covered by clothes or a hat. Don’t forget your face, neck, ears, and the back of your hands and feet. Use sunscreen lip balm to protect your lips.
  • Apply and re-apply. Use sunscreen when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest, such as when the UV Index is 3 or higher, usually from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Apply sunscreen before other skin products. Re-apply sunscreen regularly, especially after sweating, swimming, or towelling.
  • Make sure you’re using enough. Most adults need 2 to 3 tablespoons of sunscreen to cover their body; 1 teaspoon of sunscreen to cover their face and neck.
  • Use other protection also. No sunscreen provides 100% protection. Use sunscreen with other sun protection measures such as limiting time in the sun, seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and a hat, and wearing sunglasses.

Things to avoid

  • Don’t use UV tanning equipment or get a suntan on purpose.
  • Avoid getting a sunburn.
  • Don’t expose yourself or your children to UV rays to meet vitamin D needs. Use food or supplements instead.

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario