While it’s a good idea to wear sun protection all year round, it’s especially important during the hot summer months when days are longer and the sun is more intense.
Most of us have experienced the painful after-effects of too much sun – the redness, the itching, the peeling skin. Even if you diligently applied sunscreen before you stepped outside, if you forget to reapply, there’s still a good chance that you could get burned. And while the immediate effects of overexposure are unpleasant, the potential long-term risk of skin cancer is much worse.
Fortunately, a new wearable from a Toronto-based company hopes to prevent the harmful consequences of sun overexposure. QSun is a clip-on device can be easily attached to clothing and uses advanced sensors to track ultraviolet (UV) rays and notify the user when they might be at risk of a sunburn. QSun also has a corresponding smartphone app that uses artificial intelligence to give users personalized sun care recommendations based on the weather and their skin type.
In Canada, it is estimated that one in 57 men and 1 in 74 women will develop melanoma during their lifetime – mostly due to overexposure to sunlight. Additionally, it has also been reported that more than half of skin cancer-related deaths occur in persons more than 65 years old. Essentially, the longer a person lives, the greater their chance of developing skin cancer.
“Our aim is to help people to age well so when they’re older, they won’t see the result of overexposure that they had during their younger years,” says QSun creator Neda Ghazi.
The device, which was financed through successful Kickstarter campaigns, also calculates how much vitamin D the user has produced from sun exposure. This is especially important for Canadians, as our long winters mean we get less natural vitamin D. QSun allows users to maximize their intake of the vitamin from sun exposure safely.
“What we are trying to do is show people that there are other sources of vitamin D,” says Ghazi. “They can compare [their intake from multiple sources] together to make sure they’re getting enough.”
The device has other features, including prompts for when to apply and reapply sunscreen and how much to put on, plus functions that can analyze your skin’s age and tell you how long it will before you will get a sunburn.
Of course, as with any new technology, it’s acceptable to approach wearable devices like QSun with a healthy dose of skepticism. There are a number of concerns about the safety, reliability and security of using consumer wearables.
“It would be good to actually measure, moving forward, whether it changes behaviours,” says Ottawa-based dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Beecker.
She is also concerned that the device might give users “a false sense of security” and that people might spend more time in the sun than they normally would because they are relying on the app to let them know if they are safe or not. However, overall, she says that she is happy to see a device that promotes sun safety.
“Any product that encourages people to have sun awareness is so important,” says Dr. Beecker. “Skin cancer is the number one cancer in the world.”
While QSun is useful for anybody who wants to embrace safer sun practices, Ghazi says the app is best suited to those who are at high risk for sun damage, including those who have blonde or red hair, a family history of skin cancer, those with skin allergies or sensitive skin.