Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, PHA, said: “Being active outside during the summer is good for your health, but everyone needs to be aware that the sun can cause permanent damage to your skin. One episode of sunburn, especially in childhood, doubles the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
“Many people may not be aware that skin cancer is the most common cancer in Northern Ireland and accounts for more than a quarter of all people diagnosed with the disease. There is no such thing as a safe tan; keeping safe from harmful UV rays is the best form of protection which will also help towards reducing the risk of developing skin cancer.”
Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Co-ordinator, Cancer Focus, said: “It’s important to remember the ‘care in the sun’ messages at home and abroad. The damage caused by the sun can accumulate over time and may lead to skin cancer.
“Everyone is at risk of sun damage, but certain groups are particularly at risk, including those with fair hair and complexions, babies and children, and people with a family history of skin cancer. It is therefore vitally important that all of us take the necessary steps to protect ourselves in the sun and actively reduce the risks of skin cancer.”
There are a number of simple steps that will protect against harmful rays:
- Seek shade when the sun is at its strongest – generally 11am to 3pm.
- Cover up in the sun with a long sleeved T-shirt, sunglasses and a hat.
- Use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 for UVB protection and 4 star for UVA protection. Apply liberally 30 minutes before going out in the sun and re-apply at least every two hours.
- Be sure to cover areas which are sometimes missed, such as the lips, ears, around the eyes, neck, scalp, backs of hands and tops of feet.
- Sunscreen is not an alternative to avoiding the sun or covering up. It must used in addition. Sunscreens should not be used to allow you to remain in the sun for longer – use them only to give yourself greater protection.
- Take extra care with children and babies, as their skin is often more sensitive and easily burned.
For further information on how you can have safe fun in the sun click on www.careinthesun.org
Dr McCarthy added: “It’s also important for everyone to examine their skin regularly and to watch for early signs of cancer, as well as being aware of any changes to your skin. If you notice a lump, a sore which does not heal, a mole which changes shape, size, colour or bleeds easily, or if you have any concerns, seek advice from your GP.”
If you are concerned about skin cancer you can also call the Cancer Focus free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the charity’s nurses on [email protected]