Dr Bernadette Cullen, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, PHA said: “We all enjoy the sunny weather here in Northern Ireland whether it be for leisure activities, or when working outside. It is important, however, that we all take care in the amount of exposure we have to the sun and take the necessary steps to protect ourselves as sunburn, especially in childhood, significantly increases your risk of developing skin cancer. Simple steps such as seeking shade between 11am and 3pm, covering up with clothes and wide brimmed hats, and wearing a high factor sunscreen can all help.”
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at UCF said: “Over exposure to the sun has many risks. It can cause burnt, wrinkly, blotchy, and dry skin, all leading to premature ageing. The damage caused by the sun may seem trivial in the short term, but it can accumulate and may lead to skin cancer. In Northern Ireland nearly 2,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, 182 of these cases being of the most serious kind, malignant melanoma and the majority of skin cancers are linked to prolonged exposure to ultra violet radiation. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Northern Ireland, yet research by UCF shows that many local people don’t apply sunscreen when sunbathing here as they mistakenly believe our weather is not sunny enough to harm them.
“Everyone is at risk of sun damage, but certain groups are particularly at risk, including those with fair hair and complexions, children, outdoor workers and people with a family history of skin cancer. It is therefore of crucial importance 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 ways a person can adequately protect themselves from harmful rays:
• Use a sun screen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more, to include UVA and UVB protection and re-apply every couple of hours;
• Wear loose fitting clothes and a hat to cover your face;
• Where possible, seek shade when the sun is at its strongest between the hours of 11am and 3pm;
• Take extra care to protect babies and children from the sun;
• Reduce the time you are actually exposed to the sun – this will significantly reduce your risk of skin cancer.
It is important that everyone examines their skin regularly and if you notice a lump, a sore which does not heal, a mole which changes in shape, size or colour or which bleeds easily, you should visit your GP for advice or telephone UCF freephone helpline cancer information services on 0800 783339.
Notes to the editor
PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.