National Cancer Registry report reinforces message that you can reduce your risk of skin cancer

HSE Media Release: 6 October 2020

report released by the National Cancer Registry this week highlights that at least a third of invasive cancers can be prevented through modifying some of our lifestyle behaviours. 

The report analysed skin cancer rates in Ireland using just two of the factors that contribute to our skin cancer risk: a single sunburn episode and using sunbeds. It found that these two factors alone contributed to:

  •  More than 400 cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
  •  Almost 3,000 diagnoses of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC).

Although melanoma is not the most frequently diagnosed skin cancer, it is associated with significant ill-health, is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body and can be fatal. While NMSC is rarely fatal, treatment may require disfiguring surgery and/or lifetime treatment and monitoring.

The Irish Cancer Prevention Network is a collaboration which aims to reduce the rates of cancers which we know are avoidable. With over 11,000 cases each year, skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland, yet most skin cancer can be prevented. 

The Irish Cancer Prevention Network welcomes the report which highlights again the importance of cancer prevention and the need for further research. It further reiterates that skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in Ireland. 

Shirley’s story: The freckle on my shoulder that led to 10-year cancer journey

Shirley McEntee from Galway, who used to work as a paramedic, was 30 when she was diagnosed with melanoma in 2004 after discovering what she described as a freckle on her shoulder. She subsequently developed cancer in her lungs, then adrenal gland, ovary and in 2011 discovered it in her neck and stomach. She was given six months to live but thanks to a new drug therapy, she survived. In 2014 Shirley was diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent surgery again. Now cancer-free for nearly six years she lives with after effects, including severe headache, fatigue and after a fall last Halloween she now walks with a stick. Her book about her experience, Survivor, details her journey back to health.

Shirley said: “Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Ireland and it can be prevented. I would advise everyone to follow the SunSmart 5s as this isn’t something I would want anyone to go through. My cancer was caused by me overusing sunbeds in my 20s but the main cause of skin cancer today is exposure to the sun with no protection.  Just because it is cloudy doesn’t mean the risk has gone away – even in Autumn.”

Watch Shirley’s story.

Over the past few months, the Irish Cancer Prevention Network and Healthy Ireland’s SunSmart campaign reminded us to follow the 5 S’s of sun protection.

As well as sunburn and excess sun exposure, artificial UV (ultraviolet radiation) from sunbeds increase the risk of developing skin cancers. In Ireland, the intensity of UV is greatest from April to September.

Skin damage from the sun can be prevented by following the simple Healthy Ireland SunSmart code from April to September:

  •  Slip on clothing that covers your skin such as, long sleeves, collared t-shirts.
  •  Slop on sunscreen on exposed areas, using factor 30+ for adults, 50+ for children.
  •  Slap on a wide-brimmed hat.
  •  Seek shade - especially if outdoors between 11 am and 3 pm, always use a sunshade on a child’s buggy.
  •  Slide on sunglasses to protect your eyes. 
Last updated on: 06 / 10 / 2020