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Martin urges skin cancer prevention

 Martin Gillick is seated on a couch in a sitting room. He is looking straight ahead. Behind him is a window and there and painting on the wall and vases on the mantelpiece.

“When you hear the word cancer it can be quite a shock, especially when you hear that you’ve been doubly diagnosed with skin cancer,” according to Martin Gillick. “In my case, I ended up being diagnosed with two different types of skin cancer on my face and hand.”

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland with approximately 13,000 cases annually. This number is expected to double by 2045. However, the majority of cases can be prevented by following skin protection behaviours. Outdoor workers can be exposed to two to three times more UV rays than indoor workers.

Martin continues: “I was in my mid-fifties when I received both diagnoses. Over the course of my working life, my working roles would have included a substantial amount of outside work. I would have worked abroad in sunny climates which would have contributed to me getting skin cancer.”

National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan

The HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) in consultation with cancer charities, healthcare professionals, and national organisations recently launched a National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan. 

It includes many actions designed to target specific groups that have been identified as being particularly vulnerable. These include children and young people, outdoor workers, and those who participate in outdoor leisure activities, as well as sunbed users.

Dr Triona McCarthy, NCCP, explained that the plan “outlines how we can support everyone to reduce their risk of skin cancer. It is so important for physical and mental health to enjoy time outdoors but we should do so while also protecting our skin from UV radiation to reduce the risk of our most common cancer. The best way to protect the skin is to cover up with long sleeves, wear a sunhat, and sunglasses and use sunscreen.  We should limit our time in the sun when UV radiation is strongest, typically between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm, from April to September in Ireland. And never use a sunbed.”

“In hindsight,” Martin concluded, “if I had used sunscreen and worn more sun-protective clothing such as long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses when working outdoors, I would have reduced my exposure to harmful UV rays and possibly prevented those skin cancers developing in the first place.”

Watch Martin talk about his experience of skin cancer and the importance of sun protection - YouTube