For Laurent Martel, a medical student at the University of Sherbrooke’s Moncton campus, one of the most important aspects of medicine is “preventive medicine.”
Sunscreen is part of this prevention.
“If we can stop a disease from happening before it even shows up, I think to me that’s the best case scenario,” said Martel. “So with something like skin cancers, the good news is that it is preventable for a large part of it.”
Some of Martel’s colleagues and fellow medical students, Samuel and Karen Farag, are originally from Summerside, P.E.I. They started installing sunscreen dispensers in Summerside for the public to use, and Martel knew New Brunswick could benefit from this as well.
The dispensers are being installed in collaboration with the Save Your Skin foundation, which was already planning a similar project in British Columbia. The foundation is providing the funding for the Riverview machine and the sunscreen is being donated.
The dispensers automatically dispense an SPF 30 sunscreen without the need to touch them.
A dispenser by the gazebo in Riverfront Park is the only dispenser available so far in the town, and it will be maintained by parks and recreation, according to Ashly Barron, the communications manager for the Town of Riverview.
A protective layer
Martel said having sunscreen available is important because it forms a protective barrier over the skin.
The harmful part of the sun is ultraviolet radiation, more commonly known as UV rays.
There are three types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA, UVB and UVC. Sunscreen protects humans from the UVA and UVB light that reaches Earth. UVA and UVB light are known to cause sunburns and skin cancers. UVC light is filtered out by the ozone layer and does not reach the Earth’s surface but is typically recreated artificially in light bulbs and lasers.
Martel said UV changes the DNA within a person’s cells, causing mutations.
He said when mutations occur, the cells divide out of control, which is when a cancer occurs.
Sunscreen stops the UV from penetrating the skin, said Martel.
Withstand the weather
Martel said despite the dispensers being outdoors in the summer heat, the sunscreen will remain fully effective.
He said the reason the project took a little longer to put in place was that organizers wanted to make sure the sunscreen would withstand the heat.
They found a Canadian cosmetic company called Green Cricket to provide the sunscreen, which Martel said is fully effective even when left in the machine outside.
“We’re also going to take some preventive measures to make sure that the sun will not damage the dispenser itself, which is the main concern, not the sunscreen itself,” said Martel.
“We’re going to make sure that the dispensers are in shaded areas, for example.”
Starting small but expanding
For New Brunswick, the initiative will begin in Riverview with plans to expand.
“When we moved to expand it to New Brunswick, we wanted a town that was similar in size to Summerside and immediately what came to mind was Riverview,” said Martel.
He said he is happy with the progress on the project so far, and it’s exciting to see the expansion into New Brunswick start to come to life.
“It was a wonderful idea by my colleagues [and] I’m so glad that we can bring it to other provinces in Canada,” Martel said. “I’m very excited to see the effects that it will have in the long term.”
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