Tips for expats to lower the risk of skin cancer

Many people become expatriates in warn and sunny climates around the world. Almost everyone loves to enjoy outdoors and with it sunny weather. In fact, sunshine is good for us and is often recommended as a great way to get your vitamin D, but there are risks of too much sun. Skin cancers are growths with differing causes and varying degrees of malignancy.There are three most common malignant skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Each of these are named after the type of skin cell from which it arises.

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. It is one of the most preventable cancers. The Canadian Cancer Society has released updated sun safety recommendations that are also excellent for expatriates, especially those in warm and sunny climates.

Skin Cancer Prevention Recommendations for Expats

Here are their recommendations:

  • Peak times to cover up: Expats need to be extra careful to protect their skin between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. (previously it was between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.). This is when the UV index is 3 or more, typically between April and September in the northern Hemisphere or the opposite when in the southern Hemisphere. If you are in a sunny climate, then you should always take precautions.
  • Higher SPF: use a sunscreen with a minimum skin protection factor (SPF) of 30 (previously it was SPF 15). Sunscreen should be labelled “broad-spectrum” and “water resistant” is usually the best to use.
  • Clothing is better: cover up as much as possible with tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing. Clothes generally provide better protection than sunscreen. There are plenty of great clothing options that provide excellent UV protection, especially at the beach.
Other Recommendations

The Canadian Cancer organization also recommended that you don’t forget to:

  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your head, face, neck, ears and eyes.
  • Seek shade, like a tree or an awning, or bring your own, such as an umbrella.
  • Wear close-fitting sunglasses in a wraparound style with full UVA/UVB protection.
  • Never use tanning beds.
  • If you can, try to get your vitamin D from your diet or by taking vitamin supplements rather than through UV ray exposure.
  • Have your doctor check for skin cancer during regular exams and visits.
Don’t forget the following

So if you are an expatriate in a sunny climate, you don’t have to avoid the sun. Expatriates need to enjoy the sun safely by protecting your skin and your eyes. If you are an expatriate living abroad, it is also crucial that you obtain an international health insurance plan that will cover you should you develop skin cancer or another illness or injury. Cancer treatment can be extremely expensive and it is important that your global medical policy cover you locally and internationally, especially if you wish to seek skin cancer treatment at a respected and well known international clinic or hospital. For more information and helpful expat tips, check out our expat resource center.