Ultraviolet (UV) levels across Ireland were high enough to cause skin damage on almost 90% of the days between April and September last year according to the Society’s UV Index[i]. Most cases of skin cancer are caused by UV radiation which comes from the sun. UV rays cannot be seen or felt and up to 90% of UV rays can get through even light cloud. The Irish Cancer Society is highlighting this fact at the launch of their 2015 SunSmart campaign and calling on people to act to reduce their risk. The Society is also calling on organisations to consider what they can do to create an environment which supports their members to protect their skin when outdoors.
The UV index is a measure of the level of UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface.It ranges from zero to 11+. The higher the UV Index the greater the risk of damage which can lead to skin and eye cancer. On average, during the summer of 2014 the UV index across the country reached three or higher on 87.7% of the days recorded. Levels were highest in the south and west of the country.
|Days the UV Index was >=3||% of days|
Ireland has the highest reported incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer in Europe[ii]. The number of diagnosed new cases of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer in this country reached over 10,000 for the first time in 2011. This marked an 81% increase in incidence since records began in 1994. The largest increase in cases was found in young people who live in affluent urban settings who are exposed to repeated sunburn, probably from leisure activities.
Rosemary Scott, Cancer Prevention Officer at the Society said “Most people think they don’t need to take care of their skin when in Ireland but the truth is very different. Even on cloud and cool days, from April to September, UV levels in Ireland can be high enough to damage skin and increase skin cancer risk.
“Skin cancer can be prevented in nine out of ten cases by protecting the skin from over exposure to UV rays. We want people to ask themselves ‘what can I do to protect my skin and be safer in the sun’. We are also calling on organisations involved in outdoor sporting and work activities to think about what they can do to support their members reduce their UV exposure.
“But, it is not just people who spend more time outdoors who need to take care when outdoors. In recent years young city dwellers, with intermittent sun exposure, have been seen to be more at risk and greater numbers are presenting to their doctor with skin cancer each year. If you are outdoors watching sport, doing the gardening or just sitting in the park you need to take care too and not let UV rays catch you out!”
The Society is encouraging the public to follow the steps of the SunSmart Code for the best protection. This includes checking the Society’s UV Index daily to find out how high UV levels are in their area. In this way you can plan to protect your skin from over exposure to UV rays and reduce your risk of skin cancer.
The SunSmart Code
- SEEK SHADE: when UV rays are at their strongest – generally between11am and 3pm.
- COVER UP: by wearing a shirt with a collar and long shorts. Also wear a hat that gives shade to your face, neck and ears.
- WEAR WRAPAROUND SUNGLASSES: make sure they give UV protection.
- SLOP ON SUNSCREEN: Use sunscreen with SPF 15 (SPF30 for children) or higher and UVA protection 20 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours – more often if swimming or perspiring.
- CHECK the UV index – cancer.ie/uvindex
- Keep babies under six months out of the sun.
[i] The Society’s UV index is compiled by UV Awareness Limited and is available on the Irish Cancer Society’s website, www.cancer.ie
[ii] Deady.S, Sharp. L, Comber, H. (2014): Increasing skin cancer incidence in young, affluent, urban populations: a challenge for prevention. Dublin: National Cancer Registry of Ireland.