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Ireland Launches Skin Cancer Prevention Plan

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The Emerald Isle is encouraging is residents to turn away from the tan: A Skin Cancer Prevention Plan has launched in Ireland.

Of the more than 11,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the island nation each year, the majority are preventable. A survey carried out on behalf of the plan found that most people think that only hot sun causes skin cancer; in actuality, ultraviolet (UV) radiation is emitted naturally on the sun—even on cloudy days—and from artificial sources.

The plan was developed by the Department of Health in conjunction with the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) and key stakeholders, including other government departments, the Irish Cancer Society, the Marie Keating Foundation and the Irish Skin Foundation.

Related: Spotting Skin Cancer

It targets children, people who use sunbeds, outdoor workers and people who participate in outdoor activities. The prevalence of very fair skin throughout the country (the aforementioned survey found that nearly 2/3rds of respondents said a tan made them feel healthier, even though more than half agreed that tanned skin is damaged skin).

“Most people living in Ireland have fair skin, the type that burns easily and tans poorly, so we are at high risk of UV damage,” Catherine Byrne, minister of state for health promotion, told IrishHealth.com. “We need to change our habits and our culture of trying to get a tan and we need to get into the habit of protecting our skin every day, whatever the weather.”

Key messages of the Skin Cancer Prevention Plan include:

  • Know the UV Index: If it is three or above, protect your skin (in Ireland, this usually occurs from April through September). Limit sun exposure when UV is at its strongest, usually between 11 am-3 pm.
  • Cover Up: Cover as much skin as possible by wearing long sleeves, collared shirts and clothes made from close-woven material that does not allow sun through.
  • Slather on the Sunscreen: Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children, with high UVA protection. The sunscreen should be water-resistant, reapplied regularly and used alongside other protective measures such as clothing and shade. (The campaign emphasizes that no sunscreen can provide 100% protection).
  • Top Off: Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect the face, ears and neck.
  • Throw Shades: Sit under trees to avoid direct sunlight, use sunshade on baby strollers and keep small children out of direct sunlight. Guard eyes by wearing sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Skip the Tan: Avoid deliberately tanning, getting sunburned or using a sunbed.

“With half of all Irish adults getting sunburned last year we need a radical rethink on how we think about the sun and tanning,” added Simon Harris, minister of health. “What people really need to know is that most skin cancers could be prevented.”