There Is No Such Thing as a Healthy Tan

Raising awareness of the increase in melanoma and other skin cancers in Canada.

Skin cancer is more common than all other human cancers combined. In Canada alone, over 80,000 new skin cancer cases are diagnosed every year. In the last two decades, incidence of skin cancer has tripled. Currently, one in five Canadians will be affected by a skin cancer at least once in their lifetimes and many will have more than one skin cancer.

“Every piece of data we have shows that the increase in cases of skin cancer is just going to march on for the next several decades,” says Dr. Ivan L. Litvinov, a certified dermatologist and a scientist at the Research Institute of the MUHC (RI-MUHC).

Over 90% of all skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun, suntans and sunburns. Dr. Litvinov suggests taking precautions to avoid getting a sunburn and warns that even a suntan is a sign of skin damage. Additionally, people are living longer which means more people will get skin cancer, since age alone is a risk factor for this disease.

“There is no such thing as a healthy tan and no tan is worth dying for,” says Dr. Litvinov. “Suntan is a sign of skin damage so just enjoy the sun without getting a tan. Celebrate natural skin color!”

There are three common types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma— however, there are more than 15 different kinds of other rare skin cancers. Cases of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, are on the rise in Canada, with a new case being diagnosed every 66 minutes. Dr. Litvinov notes it is important to familiarize yourself with the ABCDE criteria (hyperlink: of melanoma and notice any skin changes including changes in colour, size, borders, of moles or new moles after the age of 50 or moles that start to bleed with slightest irritation or trauma.

Preventing suntans and sunburns should be considered all year, even in winter months when we are mostly covered. “It is more challenging to perceive the heat of the sun on the face when it is cold. It is best to apply sunscreen every morning like a moisturizer and it is best if you can reapply during the day too.”

The MUHC Foundation is proud to fund the SunFit Project. The project is a dermatologist-led initiative that aims to increase melanoma awareness, provide information on different types of skin cancer, prevention strategies, and increase sun safety practices in Canada. Dr. Litvinov reiterates that his goal is to educate the public on their risks.

“I don’t want to be scaring anybody,” he says. “I think it is just the new norm. We all want to live longer, healthier lives. Most people know best practices to protect their skin from the sun. Our goal is to get people to act on this knowledge.”

The MUHC Foundation is fundraising to end cancer as a life-threatening illness. To learn more and donate to support our Big Dream:

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