By Alix Fuller
Cosmetics: How many Canadians die of skin cancer in a year?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: The 2005 estimate for the number of deaths in Canada from malignant melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) is 880. Also relevant is the number of newly diagnosed skin cancer cases last year was 82,000.
C: Is chemical or physical sunscreen more effective?
Dr. LK: Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are examples of chemical components that very effectively block UV rays physically. However, recent technological advances have given rise to the non-physical blocking components that, in the right combination and concentration, can also provide good protection.
C: How much sunscreen should be applied and where?
Dr. LK: Apply it by the palmful to all exposed areas like the face, top of the ears, nape and V of the neck and backs of the arms, hands and legs.
C: Having said all that, how do you get teens to wear sunscreen?
Dr. LK: I tell them that unprotected sun exposure can cause brown, uneven skin tone, blackheads and signs of premature aging. I also mention that many Hollywood stars like Nicole Kidman and Gwen Stefani, avoid the sun.
C: What is it about wearing sunscreen that teens don’t like?
Dr. LK: I think that for many of them, particularly males, it’s the texture. I suggest alcohol-based spray sunscreens as they seem to be more acceptable. I think there is an “invincibility” component as well.
C: How effective are makeup and skin care products now being formulated with an SPF?
Dr. LK: Most contain SPF of 15-20 which is adequate for minimal sun exposure. But during periods of higher UV indices, like summer or vacations down south, an SPF 30 or higher is recommended.
C: Many teens seem to think a sunburn is a good base for a natural tan. Is it?
Dr. LK: No. Many people mistakenly think a tan provides adequate SPF protection. That’s completely false. A sunburn histologically produces changes in the skin that cause premature aging and can lead to skin cancer.
C: Can a sunburn promote blemishes and breakouts?
Dr. LK: A sunburn results in the release of inflammatory mediators that can cause a flare-up of acne.
C: Is it true that most non-melanoma skin cancers are the result of unprotected sun exposure in childhood and adolescence?
Dr. LK: It’s definitely true!
C: What’s the story on tanning beds?
Dr. LK: Tanning beds produce UV light that is linked to the development of skin cancer.