'Like someone with lung cancer walking in with a cigarette': Cork consultant warns of tanning dangers

“It’s like seeing someone with lung cancer walking in with a cigarette in each hand in that it’s just as dangerous.”
'Like someone with lung cancer walking in with a cigarette': Cork consultant warns of tanning dangers

“We have people who might have two or three cancers taken off a year. They disappear for the winter and when we see them in the spring they are walking in with a tan." 

A CORK consultant has highlighted the dangers of tanning addiction after seeing patients return several shades darker than before a skin cancer diagnosis.

Dr Billy O’Connor, a consultant dermatologist at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, said he has seen patients who have battled skin cancers return in the spring with a tan. He said that such a situation was the equivalent to seeing a lung cancer sufferer walk into a hospital with a cigarette in each hand.

The frontline worker is passionate about educating people on the serious risks linked to sun worshipping. Some 13,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, with numbers expected to double in Ireland by 2040.

Dr O’Connor described the extent of the situation in Cork. 

“Tanning on sun holidays and sun beds can certainly be an addiction,” he said.

“We have people who might have two or three cancers taken off a year. They disappear for the winter and when we see them in the spring they are walking in with a tan.

“It’s like seeing someone with lung cancer walking in with a cigarette in each hand in that it’s just as dangerous.”

“You sometimes hear people say that they don’t get much sun but they are in denial and don’t want to recognise that this is the situation. All you can do is give people the right advice. You can’t force someone to change.”

Dr O’Connor said a skin cancer diagnosis often drives people to alter their lifestyle.

“Usually the ones who take the advice on board are the people who have lost a lot of tissue from their lip, eyelid, face or scalp. 

"You often see a huge change in them. They say that they once used to balm out all day and now enjoy their holiday in the shade. It often takes a jolt like this to realise that walking around extremely dark from holidays is not as trendy as it’s made out to be. The only tan that could ever be considered safe comes from a bottle.

“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. It’s also the fastest growing. There are about 13,000 new skin cancer cases every year in Ireland. Of those, 1,100 are melanomas which are life threatening.”

Dr O’Connor said some people are unaware of the hidden risks. 

“We see people who get more pre-cancers on the right side because they have the ultraviolet light coming through the window of their car. We’ll have people in occupations such as farming who are outdoors a lot and wanting to know why they are getting all this bruising. There is no instant fix for something you have been doing for 50 years.”

On sunbeds, Dr O’Connor also voiced concern. 

“Sunbeds are around 15 times stronger than the midday Mediterranean sun. They are also poorly regulated, which means that one sunbed can offer a lot more ultraviolet light than the other. When we treat people in a medical context with a light source, we use a very specific wave length and the outputs of the light are measured on a very regular basis.”

Dr O’Connor said more precautions need to be taken by Irish people on holiday. 

“In places like Spain, Greece and Portugal you won’t see the local people out in the intense ultraviolet light. 

However, it’s the Irish people with the red hair and freckles that you see out and about. If the locals aren’t doing this then you know there’s a reason why.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130
EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more