May 28, 2013

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

When I first came to Dauphin, several people told me they knew my father. I was surprised to hear this because my Dad, Bob Shewfelt, lives in Pinawa, MB and grew up in Wawa, ON. It turns out people thought I was the son of Ben Shewfelt. Im sure Ben Shewfelt was a wonderful barber and a nice man, but Im not related to him. Apparently Bens wife was a teacher in the Eclipse, but again no relation to me as far as I know. As I said, my Dad grew up in Wawa, ON. Our family made many trips to Wawa during the summer when I was growing up. Sometimes we continued down the road to Bruce Mines to visit my grandmothers family. My grandmothers family is Finnish. I have fond memories of hanging out at my great Aunt and Uncles cottage on Georgian Bay. Sunshine, saunas, swimming and a lot of people speaking a language I couldnt understand.


The summer weather needed to start hanging out at the cottage here in the Parkland is getting closer. Remember when youre outside to use sunscreen. Too much sun can damage your skin. And that damage can add up. Sun exposure can lead to serious problems like skin cancer.


The sun emits radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to X-rays. The part of the spectrum we are interested in for skin damage are the Ultra-violet wavelengths. There are 2 types of UV radiation we talk about with skin damage, UVA and UVB. Sun burn is most often caused by UVB. UVA & UVB can both cause premature skin aging, and skin cancer.


Sun exposure is a factor in the development of three types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is caused by the exposure to UV radiation and is the most common type of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma often affects fair-skinned people with blond or red hair who sun burn easily. Basal cell carcinoma is usually very easy to treat. Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, is caused by repeated exposure to the sun over a long period of time. It can be very successfully treated if it is identified early. Malignant melanoma is a less common skin cancer. We believe sun exposure is one of its causes. If malignant melanoma is found early, it has a high cure rate. However, if it is not caught early, it can spread to the blood stream and in the worst cases, it can cause death. If sunscreen is used properly, it has been shown to reduce the number of cases of squamous cell carcinoma, and it may help reduce the risk of malignant melanoma. There is debate about how well sun screens protect against basal cell carcinoma.


The Food and Drug Administration in the US started to require changes in the labeling of sunscreens in 2012. It is believed Health Canada will follow suit in the near future. In the US sunscreens can no longer be labeled Sunblock, and they cant claim immediate protection upon application. The FDA thinks sunblock implies too much protection. If the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB and has an SPF of 15 or greater, it can be labelled as Broad Spectrum. The FDA also wont allow a sunscreen to claim an SPF of greater than 50 as they feel there is no evidence that numbers above 50 have any real meaning. Sunscreens wont be able to say they are water proof or sweat proof. The will only be able to say they are water resistant. The label must state how long they are water resistant for. The two labeling options will be water resistant for 40 minutes or water resistant for 80 minutes.


Sunscreen shouldnt be the only defense used to prevent skin cancer. Here are some practical suggestions.

  • Avoid the sun when it is most intense. These are between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.

  • Seek the shade when you are outside for a long period of time

  • Wear a hat with a wide brim and long-sleeved shirt.

I have lots of fond memories of time at the lake. Yes, sunshine, a cottage, a lake and bunch of people speaking a language I cant understand. This time, though, Im not a little kid. This time Im in my late twenties. Im on Windigo Lake near Lac du Bonnet, MB. Im with my new wife, Doris, my new parents-in-law and several of their family friends. This time everyone around me is speaking German not Finnish. The whole scene feels familiar and just right, though. In my mind the fact that dj vu isnt an English phrase seems perfectly appropriate.



As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.


The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

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