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Save Your Skin foundation urges Victoria to slap on sunscreen this summer

Over 80,000 Canadians were diagnosed with skin cancer in 2022
Nigel Deacon said it is a miracle he is alive after he was diagnosed with ocular cancer in 2010. (Photo submitted/ Save Your Skin Foundation)

It is a miracle that Nigel Deacon of Victoria is alive after receiving an ocular melanoma diagnosis.

“I was diagnosed by accident in 2010,” said Deacon.

Deacon was whisked away to see the lone ocular oncologist in B.C. and was in front of the specialist within weeks. He received plaque-breaking therapy that removed buildup around his eye.

“It is the standard treatment for tumours that are not too large. If they’re very large, the eye is removed.”

He would then find out in January 2013 that the cancer had progressed after being told that he could go on his way two years prior. Deacon was then told to get his affairs in order.

“I went to emergency. I got scanned, and several tumours were discovered in my abdomen. So that’s how the cancer behaves. It always goes from stage one to stage four. There’s nothing in between.”

Deacon is trying to raise awareness of melanoma and skin cancer alongside the Save Your Skin Foundation for May.

Over 80,000 Canadians were diagnosed with skin cancer in 2022, with 8,700 being melanoma and 1,300 people dying from it, said Amy Rosvold, Director of Marketing at Save Our Skin Foundation.

“In Canada, every year, the sun gets stronger. And you know, you can burn in as little as 10 or 15 minutes,” Amy Rosvold said.

Sunscreen needs to be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply two hours after swimming.

“It depends on the tone of your skin,” said Rosvold. “People with darker skin tones might be able to be in the sun longer than people who, you know, are fair-haired, you know, Redhead blue-eyed, you know, freckles, they might burn really quickly.”

A minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 is recommended for children and 50 for adults, said Rosvold.

“The higher that number is, the more protection,” added Rosvold.

Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Colwood, and Langford are among the 50 municipalities and five provinces Canada-wide that responded to the call to take a stance against skin cancer this summer.

“With summer approaching, it’s so important that we educate ourselves and take steps to ensure we’re safe when we’re out in the sun,” said Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock.

Rosvold said that correct sun protection is vital outdoors, whether cloudy or bright or sunny days.

“Clouds are not offering you that much sun protection, but you can still get exposure all year round,” Rosvold said.

Skin cancer, while not as serious as other types of cancer, still kills and is very much a young person’s cancer.

“Melanoma is quite common among younger people, you know, we see a lot of women, particularly in their 30s and we have we have had patients as young as in their 20s with it,” added Rosvold.

Skin cancer is deadly but is highly preventable, said Kathy Barnard, a stage four melanoma survivor and founder of Save Your Skin Foundation.

“Studies show that young people still aren’t taking sun safety seriously despite incidence rates rising every year,” Barnard said.

It is always smart to slip on a shirt, slap on a hat and slop on some sunscreen, but Deacon said that getting a comprehensive eye exam is also essential.

“We encourage everybody, from children to old age, to get comprehensive eye exams on a regular basis. It’s a very easy thing to do. And it’s the only way it will be found. And the earlier it’s found, the better,” Deacon said.

READ MORE: New cancer recovery centre coming to Victoria

About the Author: Thomas Eley

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