Major rise in skin cancer rates

  • Joanne McCarthy

Ireland has witnessed a 36% increase in all new cases of skin cancer over the last 10 years and a 75% increase in females under the age of 50 presenting with malignant melanoma, according to the Irish Cancer Society (ICS).

There were 5,687 new cases of skin cancer in 1997, and this figure rose to 7743 in 2007. This includes both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

In 2007, there were 667 new cases of malignant melanoma, 313 of which were in males and 354 in females. This means that there has been an 84% increase in the number of cases of malignant melanoma in men, and a 48% increase in women.

Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It develops in cells in the outer layers of the skin and can grow from a mole, freckle or a normal part of the skin. Spotting a melanoma early and getting it treated as soon as possible can save your life. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common and easily treated type of cancer.

The data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland was revealed to coincide with the launch of the annual SunSmart campaign today. The ICS recommends people follow the SunSmart code, by avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm, wearing t-shirts and long shorts made from closely woven fabric, wearing a wide brimmed hat, wraparound sunglasses and high protection sunscreen, and keeping small babies out of the sun as much as possible.

“People may think that skin cancer happens in other countries, not in Ireland due to our climate.  But 80 to 85% of UV rays pass through clouds and Ireland has the third highest rate of malignant melanoma in the EU. You may be outdoors watching sport, doing the gardening or just sitting in the park,” said Norma Cronin, health promotion manager of the ICS.

“Don’t let UV rays catch you out. It is also important that you check your own skin regularly and look out for any changes that occur in the skin. If you notice a mole change in shape, colour or size, get it checked by your GP,” she added.

The Irish Cancer Society’s 2009 SunSmart campaign will comprise a national radio advertising and public relations campaign. The key objective of the week will be to raise awareness about the increasing numbers of skin cancer cases in Ireland, how common this cancer is and the importance of prevention and early detection.

For further information on skin cancer prevention, early detection and the dangers of sunbeds call the National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800 200 700 which is staffed by specialist nurses weekdays from 9am to 7pm Monday to Thursday and Fridays from 9am to 5pm.

Discussions on this topic are now closed.