Skin cancer cases ‘set to treble over next 20 years’

More than 13,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Ireland every year, the Irish Cancer Society said
Skin cancer cases ‘set to treble over next 20 years’

The number of skin cancer cases is set to treble over the next 20 years with the incidence of melanoma increasing in men at a much greater rate than in women, the Irish Cancer Society has warned.

More than 13,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Ireland every year, it said. One in three of all cancers are of the skin variety, with 12,000 non-melanoma and 1,100 melanoma skin cancers diagnosed in Ireland each year, said the charity.

A quarter of skin cancer deaths in Ireland in 2018 were from the construction, outdoor and farming industry, according to Kevin O’Hagan, Irish Cancer Society Cancer prevention manager.

Mortality rates in men are 1½ times higher for melanoma and almost twice as higher for non-melanoma skin cancers compared to women, he said.

Outdoor workers receive up to eight times more exposure to UV radiation compared to indoor workers, with 71 deaths in Ireland in 2018 related to sun exposure at work.

“Getting burned just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It’s especially important for parents to protect their children in the sun,” said Mr O'Hagan.

UV induced

Dr Bláithín Moriarty, consultant dermatologist at St Vincent’s hospital and UCD professor, told The Irish Times that the State is experiencing “an incredible year-on-year increase in terms of skin cancer diagnosis”.

“We went from 11,000 cases in 2018 to 13,000 in 2020, while the total national numbers are expected to treble by 2040,” said Dr Moriarty.

“Most of the cancers we see, 85 per cent, in Ireland are UV induced,” she said.

The Irish Cancer Society has advised the public to limit their time in the sun when UV is strongest, typically between the hours of 11am to 3pm.

“Cover skin as much as possible, wear long sleeves and clothes made from close-woven material that does not allow sunlight through,” it said.

“Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children, with high UVA protection and water resistant. Reapply regularly, about one ounce of sunscreen for adults. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors. When outdoors, reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, or after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.”

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