Ultraviolet radiation policy pack: Local and provincial/territorial governments

Use this policy pack to support evidence-informed policy interventions to protect against ultraviolet radiation (UVR)

Inside this UVR policy pack

Background evidence

This policy pack analyzes policies from the Prevention Policies Directory and assesses the level of adoption of evidence-informed UVR policy actions that promote and improve protections from harmful UVR in Canadian cities, provinces and territories.

Solar and artificial UVR from sources such as tanning devices and electric welding arcs are recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogenic to humans.1 There is strong evidence to support a causal link between exposure to solar UVR and both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers (basal and squamous cell carcinoma), and artificial UVR from tanning beds and melanoma skin cancer.1,2 There is also sufficient evidence to support a causal link between electric welding arcs and ocular melanoma.1,3

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada. Several issues contribute to high incidence in Canada, including: lack of sun safety awareness and sun protective behaviours among Canadians, stratospheric ozone depletion that increases UVR reaching the earth’s surface,  the positive social image associated with tanning, and myths indicating that indoor tanning is healthy and protective.4,5,6,7

Rates of melanoma cancer diagnoses are on the rise. Between 1992 and 2013, the incidence rate for melanoma skin cancer in Canada has increased each year by 2.1 per cent for men and 2.0 per cent for women.7 It was estimated that 7,200 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma in 2017.8

Those who are most at risk of skin cancer from UVR exposure include:

  • individuals with fair skin, freckles and numerous moles, a personal and family history of skin cancer, a weakened immune system, condition requiring radiation therapy, and/or a history of severe blistering sunburn 4,7,9,10,11
  • children and adolescents that are over-exposed to the sun during recreation activities 11,12
  • young adults and adolescents that use artificial tanning equipment 12
  • outdoor workers 12,13


1  International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2018).  Agents classified by the IARC monographs, volumes 1-123: List of Classifications by cancer site. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Retrived from: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/

2 World Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington, DC : AICR, 2007.

3 CAREX Canada. (2016). UV Radiation, Artificial. Retrieved from: https://www.carexcanada.ca/en/artificial_uv_radiation/

4 Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2014. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2014.

5 Government of Canada. (2017). Ozone layer depletion: health and environmental effects. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/air-pollution/issues/ozone-layer/depletion-impacts/health-environmental-effects.html

6 Canadian Cancer Society. (2018). 4 myths about indoor tanning. Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/reduce-cancer-risk/make-healthy-choices/be-sun-safe/4-myths-about-indoor-tanning/

7 Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2017. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2017.

8 Canadian Cancer Society. (2018). Melanoma skin cancer statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-melanoma/statistics/

9 Usher-Smith, J.A., Emery, J., Kassianos, A. P., Walter, F. M. (2014). Risk prediction models for melanoma: A systematic review. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 23 (3). doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-0295.

10 Gandini, S. et. al. (2005). Meta-analysis of risk factors for cutaneous melanoma: II. Sun exposure. European Journal of Cancer, 41(1). doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2004.10.016

11 Canadian Cancer Society. (2018). Risk Factors for non-melanoma skin cancer. Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-non-melanoma/risks/

12 Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. (2006). Artificial tanning: Policy analysis Canadian Cancer Society Ontario division.

13 Peters, C. E. (2015). Solar ultraviolet radiation and outdoor workers in Canada: a program of research on exposure assessment, sun protection behaviours and prostate cancer risk: University of British Columbia, 2015.