Londonderry cancer prevention specialist Sandra Semple has warned that binge tanning and cheap foreign holidays have helped make skin cancer Northern Ireland’s most common type of melanoma.
“Despite our unpredictable weather in Northern Ireland we are still exposed to significant levels of UV rays,” she said. “It is also important to check skin regularly.”
“We want everyone to enjoy the sun safely by - wearing sun cream factor 15 or above, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes, avoid sun beds and stay out of the midday sun.
“Check the whole body as skin cancer can occur in places not normally exposed to the sun. Be aware of any new spots, or existing spots that have changed colour, size or shape.
“A skin cancer may be a spot that bleeds easily, never heals properly or is always itchy. If any of your moles change size, shape or colour, or become itchy, sore, weep or bleed, see a doctor, or if you have been in the sun and feel dizzy or exhausted seek medical advice. The good news is that most skin cancers can be treated successfully if caught early enough.”
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Northern Ireland and accounts for one in every four cancers with the rates of malignant melanoma rising rapidly among young people.
Since the late 1970s melanoma rates have trebled among 15 to 34 year olds and experts believe that, along with binge tanning on foreign holidays, the use of sun beds is a primary cause.
Research shows that using a sun bed once a month or more, can increase the risk of developing skin cancer by more than half and using sun beds before the age of 35 years can increase the risk of developing melanoma skin cancer by up to 75%.
Sunburn in childhood is also believed to increase the risk of developing skin cancer in later life, so it is vital that children are adequately protected from the sun.
Many people in Northern Ireland are of the view that they don’t need to wear sun cream at home, with only one in seven people reporting to use it. However, UV rays can penetrate thin cloud and this can lead to burning; the more burnings a person gets the higher their risk of skin cancer. Melanoma is largely preventable by avoiding sunburn.