Know the risks of Skin Cancer
In Ireland, rates of skin cancer are increasing faster than any other type of cancer. Skin cancers are divided into two main types: melanoma and non-melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. There are approximately 11,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed per year, of which just under 1,000 are maligant (NCRI, 2017). More men than women are diagnosed with skin cancer.
Risks and causes of skin cancer
Sun exposure: Most skin cancers are caused by sun exposure, either long-term, or short periods of intense sun exposure and burning, perhaps while on holiday. Remember even on a cloudy day, UV rays can be strong enough to cause skin damage that can lead to skin cancer.
Sunbeds: Using sunbeds greatly increases your risk.
Skin types: People who have fair skin; lots of moles or freckles; or red or fair hair have a greater risk
Age: Non-melanoma skin cancers develop very slowly. As you get older you have more time to build up sun damage. However, young people can get skin cancer too.
Having had skin cancer before: If you have had a non-melanoma skin cancer, you have about a 10 times higher risk of a second non melanoma skin cancer.
Other skin conditions: People with certain skin conditions or skin treatments can be more likely to develop skin cancer. These include: psoriasis, scarring; solar keratosis; and atopic dermatitis.
Family history- If someone in your family has had any type of skin cancer, this increases your risk.
What you can do to prevent skin cancer
One of the best ways to prevent skin cancer is to be SunSmart:
- Avoid sunburn: Sunburn is a sign that your skin has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Over time this damage can build up and lead to skin cancer. Protect your skin.
- Avoid the sun and spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm; wear a long sleeved shirt or protective clothing, hat and sunglasses
- Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 (the higher the better), with good UVA protection (the more stars the better)
- Apply enough sunscreen: Research shows that most people apply much less than they need to. Apply the equivalent of a shot glass full of sunscreen to each limb and to your body and about half this much to your face. Always reapply after changing or swimming- even if your sunscreen is waterproof.
- Some sunlight is good for you – it boosts vitamin D – but sun-bathing should be kept to a minimum. Most dermatologists say that you can get enough Vitamin D from 30 minutes in the sun so there is no need to lie on a beach or by the pool when on holiday.
- Never use sunbeds: Using a sunbed causes skin cancer. Even one sunbed session can increase your risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer by 67% and basal cell skin cancer by 29%.
Think about other places you might be exposed to the sun:
- Driving (80% of UV gets through the average car window),
- Playing sport,Gardening,
- At work, depending on your job
Make sure you protect your skin while you are outdoors by covering up and by wearing sunscreen.
Checking for skin cancers
Early detection is key to surviving skin cancer. Make a habit of checking your own skin for any changes so you can notice if something changes. If you find any changes, ask your GP to check them. Get to know the normal appearance of your skin and any moles you may have. Then, learn your ABCDE’s and check your skin regularly, about once a month.