Skin Cancer is the commonest cancer in Ireland. However, in most cases it is completely curable. It is also the commonest cancer in the 15-44 age group.
Celtic Irish skin is particularly susceptible to skin cancer. Sun exposure or sunburn, or the use of sunbeds, can play a contributing role. Such sun effects may have taken place many years earlier and are not confined to those who sunbathe. Anyone with continued outdoor exposure in their job, or in sports such as golf, running or GAA, is at risk. Take a quick sun safety quiz.
Prevention is the key. The Irish Cancer Society have excellent advice on how to protect yourself and your children, and have particular warnings about the use of sunbeds in those under 30.
Skin cancer is divided into two main groups: Melanoma, and Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer such as Basal cell or Squamous cell carcinoma
Melanoma can be the more serious form of skin cancer, and can be fatal. However, if diagnosed and treated early, it can be cured. Any new mole, or changes within an existing mole, should be assessed by a doctor.
What should you look for?
Lets start at the very beginning! ABCD. Asymmetry, Border, Colour and Diameter. Most small benign moles are very even in their appearance, with a clearly defined border, an even pale or mid brown colour, and a diameter smaller than the blunt end of a pencil. If the edge of the mole is fuzzy, or the mole is varied in colour, or increasing in size or itchy or bleeding, medical advice should be obtained. Remember, early diagnosis often means cure.
Non-melanoma Skin cancer, such as Basal cell or Squamous cell carcinoma, is much more common, It is estimated that 1 in 3 people in Ireland will get this form of skin cancer. It is generally a surface problem, and rarely travels internally or affects ones general health. It is almost always curable with a minor, daycase, surgical procedure.
Basal cell is typically a small raised pearly nodule on the sun-exposed parts of the body, such as face or backs of hands. Squamous cell is a flatter, scaly red patch of skin which does not heal, and may be present for a few months before medical attention is sought. It is generally diagnosed by clinical examination, and the majority of patients will be cured after surgiery as a day patient.