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Melanoma Awareness Month: 100 people die of melanoma every year in Ireland

Ireland has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world – and the number of diagnoses is rising alongside the mortality rate.

Image: Robert Kneschke via Shutterstock

MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS ARE reminding people in Ireland to be aware of the dangers and symptoms of skin cancer as part of Melanoma Awareness Month.

The global initiative aims to promote the early prevention and detection of skin cancer. One in 8 men and 1 in 10 women in Ireland will develop skin cancer, and approximately 100 people die each year from melanoma in the country.

Ireland has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world and, worryingly, the number of diagnoses is rising alongside the mortality rate, for both men and women.

Those dying from melanoma tend to be of a younger age than those dying from other forms of cancer. Dr Paul Donnellan, founder and chairman of Irish Melanoma Forum and Consultant Medical Oncologist at Galway University Hospital, recently told TheJournal.ie that this trend can be linked to several known and possible factors, such as sun exposure and the increased use of sunbeds, family history, skin type, and suppressed immunity due to other health problems.

The traditional pale Irish complexion, coupled with a lack of understanding about the true dangers of sun exposure, have frequently been blamed for contributing to the rise of skin cancers.

Melanoma

Although melanoma can occur in anyone, Irish people have a skin type that is more susceptible to skin cancer – most Irish have a skin type 1 or 2, which burns regularly and tans with difficulty, and puts them at greater risk.

Excessive sun exposure causes approximately 90 per cent of all skin cancer, and experts recommend sunscreen and shade in summer sunshine. However, with up to 90 per cent of UV rays passing through light clouds, skin care is also needed on cloudy days.

Irish people have been encouraged to be proactive about skin cancer detection, as 97 per cent of skin cancer is curable if caught in time.

If you have moles, especially any you are concerned about, consider the following:

  • Asymmetry: if a mole is not symmetrical it could be a sign that it isn’t normal
  • Border: an irregular border around the mole
  • Colour: if the colour of a mole becomes very dark or light
  • Diameter: if the mole becomes wider than the head of a pencil (rough guideline)
  • Bleeding: any bleeding should be immediately reported to a doctor

Experts also recommend “knowing” your own body, so it is easier to spot any changes that occur. If a person has many moles or freckles in areas that it hard to view (eg the back) enlisting the help of a partner, close friend, or perhaps a mole-mapping service is recommended.

Poll: Should adults be banned from using sunbeds?

Read: Public urged to recognise signs of potentially fatal – but preventable – melanoma

Read: 794 people die each year in Europe from sunbed-induced skin cancer – research

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