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With May being Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the government rolling out a National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan for 2023 to 2026. I thought it was only fitting for my first blog to highlight how important skin cancer awareness is especially in Ireland.

The government has announced that there are around 13000 cases diagnosed with skin cancer each year in Ireland and the number is projected to double in the next 20 years. This is shocking when skin cancer can be prevented.

A lot of people presume the sun is not strong here and only use their sun protection cream when traveling abroad when a common sight we see after a sunny summer spell is sunburnt skin. No matter where the location is, it is vital to wear sunscreen.

It is important to understand the UV rays. UV rays can pass through clouds, bounce off reflective surfaces and is the primary cause of skin cancer. The main UV rays that pass into our atmosphere are UVA and UVB rays and both reach our skin. UVA also known as our aging rays and they contribute to skin burning, skin cancers and are responsible for premature aging as they pass through to the dermis of the skin. UVA rays are present all year round whether it is sunny or snowing and can pass through glass. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer and affect the epidermis. They are stronger in the summer months and cannot pass through glass.

With your sunscreen, it is good to understand the label, SPF stands for sun protection factor and it will measure how well the sun screen will deflect the uv rays. An spf 15 will give you 93% protection, spf 30 will give you 97% and spf 50 will give you 98% UVB protection. Choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.

If you are unsure of whether the sun is high, check the UV index. This can be found on all mobile phones on weather apps. The UV index is an international standard measurement used by the World Health Organisation that measures the level of the UV from the sun at the surface of the earth at a particular time and location. It is measured between 0-11 meaning that o is no sunlight and 11 is extreme radiation. The UV index will mostly read a 3 or above from April to September in Ireland meaning to protect the skin at all times at this time of the year.

Understanding the ABCDE of skin cancers is the key to recognising and identifying a change in your skin early. A = Asymmetry is when one half of the mole does not match or look like the other half of the mole, B = Border is when the borders are uneven, irregular, or undefined edges, C = Colour is when the colour changes or varies throughout. D = Diameter is when the diameter is greater than 6mm and E = evolution is any changes in a new spot or mole over time.

To protect yourself always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen all year round and in high heat apply it every 2 hours. When the index is high, cover up with sunglasses, clothing, and a hat. Seek shade during the peak hours of 10am-4pm. And if ever in doubt seek medical advice.

Have sun sense and enjoy the weather safely.

Sarah Jane

ASAP National Educator