Alarm over North Down cancer rates
Skin cancer rates in North Down are more than double those in other parts of Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.
People in the affluent Gold Coast are more likely to seek foreign sun and enjoy an outdoor lifestyle with the beautiful coastline on their doorstep, health authorities said.
The number of cases of skin cancer in Northern Ireland has trebled over the past 25 years.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is warning of the need to use suncream and avoid sunbeds.
Chief executive Dr Eddie Rooney said: "Now we know having a tan is actually a sign that our skin is trying to protect itself from ultra-violet damage rather than a sign of being healthy."
According to the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, in North Down 19 people per 100,000 developed skin cancer from 2003 to 2007. This compares to 18 per 100,000 in fellow seaside area Coleraine council and nine in Derry and Fermanagh. Women suffered more cases of the malignant melanoma.
The PHA said people were more affluent in North Down and more likely to take foreign breaks. There are also more retired people who have spent more time in the sun, although the figures are calculated to take account of age.
Campaigners from South Down have also highlighted nuclear power plant Sellafield across the Irish Sea in Cumbria.
The agency said an increasing number of skin cancer cases had been reported among young people.
The main risk factor is over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation either as a result of natural sunlight or by using a sunbed.