Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Sun lovers warned as skin cancer cases rise

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Skin cancer diagnoses in Northern Ireland have almost doubled in less than a decade, academics have warned.

While instances of the disease are on the up – a trend in part blamed on the growing accessibility of cheap holidays in the sun – survival rates are also on the increase, research published by Queen's University revealed.

According to the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry produced by the university, nine out of 10 people diagnosed survive the condition here, compared with eight out of 10 across the UK.

The total number of cases of the disease diagnosed in Northern Ireland has increased from 182 in 1993 to 296 in 2011.

While the majority affected have been women, prevalence among men has more than doubled in that time frame, from 58 in 1993 to 126 in 2011. Of the 296 cases identified in 2011, 57% were in women and 43% were in men.

Dr Anna Gavin, director of Queen's NI Cancer Registry, said the figures provided a timely reminder of the importance of staying safe in the sun.

"Northern Ireland's survival rates for malignant melanoma are among the best in Europe," she said. "That is largely due to improvements in treatment, awareness of symptoms and early diagnosis. Skin cancer is one of the fastest rising cancers in the UK, and Northern Ireland is no exception. Even on a cloudy day, the sun will cause damage to the skin, and that can lead to cancer.

"People can reduce their risk of developing malignant melanoma by following this advice: seek the shade between 11am and 3pm; cover-up with a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses, and always wear sun cream with a minimum SPF 15.

"Malignant melanoma is one of the most treatable forms of cancer. But early diagnosis is crucial. It is important to get to know your skin, and if you notice anything unusual get it checked by your GP.

"Things to look out for are a change to a mole the size of the blunt end of a pencil, or bigger, that has changed in colour, size or texture, or is bleeding or itching."

FACTFILE

* Data from Queen's Cancer Registry shows 89.9% of those diagnosed with malignant melanoma between 2002-6 were still alive five years after their diagnosis.

* Survival rates are better in women than men.

* There are almost 3,000 people living here who had a diagnosis of cancer in the past 18 years.

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