Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy and Action Plan (PDF 455KB)

Northern Ireland may not enjoy the sunniest climate in the world, or even in the UK, however, in spite of this we have witnessed a significant rise in the incidence of melanoma skin cancer cases in recent years - from 80 cases in 1984 to 282 in 2009 (the latest year for which published figures are available). In relation to non-melanoma skin cancers, there are approximately 2,850 new cases here each year, making it the most common type of cancer diagnosed in Northern Ireland. åÊ The rise in the number of skin cancer cases is alarming. We know that the increase in this particular type of cancer is global and not just confined to our part of the world. We also know there are many factors involved: the significant rise in people travelling on foreign sun holidays; more leisure time being spent out of doors; and damage caused to the ozone layer to name but a few. åÊ Substantial progress in the area of skin cancer awareness raising and prevention has been made through the previous “Melanoma Strategy” which was developed in 1997. However, the unfortunate reality is that we will continue to see rising rates of skin cancer for some time to come as a result of many years of overexposure to the sun before skin cancer prevention programmes were developed. Until we can reverse this trend through effective campaigning and awareness raising, early detection will be key to bringing down mortality rates. While the 1997 strategy was right for its time, there have been many developments since then, necessitating a new strategy to reflect today’s position. åÊ For example, recent studies about the importance of vitamin D have highlighted the need for balance in sun safety messages. This new strategy is not about stopping people from enjoying the sun and its many benefits. Rather, it is about encouraging people to take proportionate measures to prevent overexposure. åÊ åÊ
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Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety