How can sun safety messages convince travelers to seek shade and cover up in the sun on vacation? How can the built environment help increase sun safety by maximizing access to shady areas? How can the use of Big Data drive people to be more “sun smart”?
These and many other issues will be front and center at the 4th International Conference on UV and Skin Cancer Prevention at Ryerson University in Toronto, May 1-4. Held in different countries around the world – the 2015 event was in Sydney, Australia – the International Conference on UV and Skin Cancer Prevention highlights the best in public health and community-based approaches to educating the public about the importance of UV protection.
“This fourth conference really aims to disrupt current ways of thinking in the field of skin cancer prevention by sparking new ideas, proposing new intersections between disciplines, and fostering new connections and collaborations,” said Ms. Mary Buller, conference organizer and Owner and President of Klein Buendel, a Golden, Colorado-based health communication research company whose investigators have been conducting skin cancer prevention research since the early 1990s.
While preventing skin cancer is the galvanizing theme of the conference, sessions cover topics ranging from urban planning, architectural design, public health and radiation science. The common goal is to increase public awareness – and public action – on the need for increasing shade and maximizing sun protection, not just during leisure pursuits, but also in the workplace.
“The sun is a workplace hazard that can cause skin cancer, heat stress and eye damage, yet these conditions are preventable with an increase in awareness,” said Dr. Thomas Tenkate, conference organizer and Director of the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University.
Since 1998, George Kapelos, conference co-organizer and Associate Professor of Architectural Science at Ryerson, has been engaged with cancer prevention specialists to explore linkages between design and skin cancer reduction. As a member of the Ontario Sun Safety Working Group since its inception in 2002, he sees a strong case for architecture and design to support sun safety.
“A key for the architecture and design community is to ensure that public spaces such as parks and playgrounds are not ‘bald’, that is without cover or shade from the sun,” says Kapelos. “It is very true that thoughtful design can go a long way to protecting the public from the sun, especially children who may not be thinking of sun safety as they are playing.”
Keynote presenter and Chair of the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA)’s Sun Awareness Group, Dr. Jennifer Beecker said the event is critical to help continue to raise awareness among the public about sun’s potential danger.
While Canada may not be a place thought of as a “sunny” destination, the intensity of ultra-violet radiation is highest in the southernmost parts of the country and has increased over the past few decades. This has led to increased incidence rates of melanoma, which rose 2.1% per year for men, and 2.0% for women, between 1992 to 2013.
“For many years the CDA and other organizations have been ramping up efforts to reduce the incidence of skin cancer, which remains the most common cancer diagnosed in Canada in Canada, affecting 1 out of 7 Canadians,” says Dr. Beecker, a dermatologist in Ottawa. “We have had successes, but recent studies show that approximately one-third of Canadians aged 18 or older had a sunburn last year, so there remains work to be done.”
In addition to organizing and hosting the conference, several KB scientists and staff will be attending and presenting recent findings from research projects on sun safety policy and practice in schools, workplaces, and tattoo studios.
For more information, visit http://www.uvandskincancer2018.org/.