Local cancer charity Action Cancer has again teamed up with long-term partner Gordons Chemists to launch this year’s Safe Sun campaign.
At a time when travel is restricted and people are staying in Northern Ireland for staycations, Action Cancer is warning the public holidaying at home not to underestimate the strength of the sun.
Sun protection is just as important at home as it is abroad in sunnier climes. Outdoor exercise has become increasingly popular during the pandemic and is increasing the public’s skin exposure to the sun.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Northern Ireland. Each year around 4,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer and 387 develop the most serious type of skin cancer, known as malignant melanoma. A total of 93 people die from melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer in Northern Ireland every year.
Unfortunately, the statistics show that incidence of skin cancer is increasing in Northern Ireland with men being at a greater risk than women in developing the disease.
“We are encouraging people to protect themselves and their families as much as they can from sun exposure,” said Geraldine Kerr, Action Cancer head of professional services. “The use of a high factor sun cream, covering up and staying out of the sun in the middle of the day, are all key to reducing your risk.”
Connor Graham, Action Cancer’s skin cancer ambassador, was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 35. He said: “It’s so important that people respect the sun. When I was younger I took such a relaxed attitude and I’m regretful of that now. I used to think it wasn’t a good day on the golf course unless I came home burnt. I wish I had taken it all more seriously.
“My diagnosis came when a mole on my arm became itchy and raised. It had turned into a malignant melanoma. Thankfully because I contacted my GP, the cancer was caught at an early and treatable stage. I still bear the physical scar on my arm from the extraction and mentally I’ve really struggled to cope with my diagnosis. Action Cancer’s counselling service has been a godsend to me in helping me overcome the ‘what ifs?’.
“As a surveyor, I work outdoors and would like to encourage all outdoor workers to follow the sun safety advice and to check your skin monthly for changes. Early detection saves lives.”
Melanie Talbot, Gordons Chemists marketing manager, said: “Gordons Chemists is proud to support Action Cancer in delivering its Safe Sun message. Our community pharmacists have been at the forefront of service delivery during the pandemic and are here to offer sun safety advice to our customers across all our stores in Northern Ireland.”
Action Cancer’s Cancer Awareness programme, which includes information on skin cancer and sun safety, is available to organisations and community groups. Counselling and complementary therapies are also on offer to anyone affected by a skin cancer diagnosis. Visit www.actioncancer.org or call 028 8090 3344 to find out more.
It’s important to protect your skin from damage from the UV rays from the sun and sunbeds, which is what causes the damage to our skin.
• Use sun cream – use a sun cream with a high SPF and UV star rating for maximum protection and reapply frequently (every 2hrs) throughout the day.
• Use the shade – especially between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest.
• Wear protective clothing that will protect your skin from the sun.
• Check the UV index before spending any time in the sun (usually included in the weather forecast). Anything above 3, protection is recommended.
• Never use sunbeds – they expose your skin to high levels of UV rays. Even using a sunbed once can increase your risk of melanoma by 20%!
• Wear sun cream on your hands before getting your nails done at the beauty salon, if they use a UV lamp to set the polish!
Remember to check your skin regularly - once a month.
Remember your ABCD for your self-examination:
• Asymmetry – is the mole unsymmetrical or changed in size?
• Border – are the boarders of the mole irregular or ragged?
• Colour – does the colour of the mole vary throughout or changed in colour (darker or patchier)?
• Diameter – is it larger than 6mm (the size of a pencil rubber)?
Also look for inflammation, itching, pain, bleeding or crusting.
If you notice any of these changes, speak to your GP.
Remember – if in doubt, check it out. Early detection saves lives.