Even though we haven’t seen much of it yet this year, protecting our skin from the sun is important all year round.

To increase awareness of sun related skin damage, Edmonton dermatologists offered free skin cancer screening at City Centre Mall yesterday.

“Sun is not just there when it’s sunny. Ultraviolet radiation gets through the clouds,” said local dermatologist Dr. Mariusz Sapijaszko.

Sapijaszko volunteered his time to educate about 150 people about abnormalities of their skin.
The screening event was part of the Canadian Dermatology Association’s 22nd National Sun Awareness Week.

“We try to promote awareness that having fun in the sun is perfectly okay, but you have to be sun smart,” Sapijaszko said. “When the skin gets damaged through sun, over time it creates photo damage and then skin cancer.” Sapijaszko said.

Preventable in a majority of the cases, if skin cancer is detected too late, it can have severe consequences for the patient.

“Not only sometimes people die, but also the treatment is tough. It can leave people disfigured. Not to mention the pain involved and the recovery time,” Sapijasko said.

Cindy Bilodea was diagnosed with skin cancer at the lower lip several months ago. Five stitches were necessary to remove it.

During a biopsy, two additional basal cell carcinomas were detected. Bilodea attended the screening event to make others aware of the importance of sun protection.

“I used tanning beds in my 20s and I had tons of sunburns,” she said. “By my late 30s I noticed little changes in my skin. But I still wanted to have that supposedly healthy glow,” the 41-year-old said.

“Now I’m afraid of the sun. I wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, even when it’s hot out.”

Skin cancer is currently the number one cancer in Canada. With a referral to a dermatologist, skin cancer screenings are covered by the Alberta health-care system.