Looking up at the awesome ball of fire that makes life on Earth possible, it's hard to believe that the burning sphere can also seriously hurt - even kill - us. Exposure to its ultraviolet radiation can fry skin to a crisp, dangerously dry us up and put us in line for skin cancers, the most deadly of which is melanoma.
But we wait all year to frisk around in the golden rays, and flock to beaches and outdoor concerts without a thought. So how to get the summer vibe and still protect ourselves?
What the experts say
"Choose zinc oxide and toxin-free sunblocks: Badger SPF 30, Devita Solar Block SPF 30+ and Green Beaver. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-resistant clothing. Choose wraparound Polaroid sunglasses with 100 per cent UVA and UVB protection. Stay hydrated, and eat 10 colourful fruits and vegetables a day for their healing, antioxidant effects. Aloe vera gel removes heat and stinging from sunburn. As well, treat sunburn with calendula cream with vitamin E (organic is best) and the homeopathic remedy cantharis. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which cause water loss. Mix powdered calcium, magnesium and potassium in water, or take supplements before you exercise, because they get depleted. Take them as well if treating heat exhaustion: water with 2 teaspoons of salt per litre every few minutes, as salt increases depletion.''
ZORANA ROSE, naturopathic doctor, Toronto
"One of the hazardous ingredients in sunscreens is a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate. Research by the FDA and the National Toxicology Program [in the U.S.] suggests this chemical may increase the risk of skin cancer. Oxybenzone is another ingredient to avoid. It was found in more than 50 per cent of products we looked at. It's associated with hormone disruption, and easily penetrates the skin. We suggest consumers look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, the basis of mineral sunscreens. These are less hazardous and provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays."
NNEKA LEIBA, senior research analyst, Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC
"Sunscreen has to be broad-spectrum, and the SPF should be at least 30. Look for water-resistant or -repellant products. Sunscreens that feature the logo for the Canadian Dermatology Association tend to be more reliable. Sometimes people put on sunscreen and think it's foolproof, but it needs to be reapplied regularly. There have been suggestions that some ingredients can increase carcinogenicity. There is no clear evidence for that. More of an issue is not reapplying sunscreen; that's how we get skin cancer. Even living in Toronto's climate, those who get a moderate amount of sun - for example, 15 to 20 minutes of walking back and forth to their cars - can be at risk. Sunscreen by itself is not enough. Staying out of the sun and protective clothing are most important. People should watch their skin. If they notice new spots, they should see a skin doctor. Skin cancer is on the rise. There is no need to sit in the sun to get vitamin D. Take supplements."
ANATOLI FREIMAN, dermatologist, medical director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre
"The chromophores in sunscreens can produce allergic reactions, so look for sunscreens that contain micronized titanium dioxide and micronized zinc oxide. There is no way to reverse sun damage once it's done. Some people argue, ‘If I don't leave it too long, skin cancer's not such a big deal.' Well, if you like having chunks of your skin cut out at regular intervals, then I guess that's true. People like lying in the sun because sunlight produces endorphins, which are opiates produced by your own body. But sunlight is responsible not only for skin cancer but for wrinkling; most of what we consider aging of the skin is caused by sun exposure."
RICHARD GRANSTEIN, chair, department of dermatology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City