Kieran Connolly’s personal story

Kieran Connolly’s personal story

With skin cancer on the rise, the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are encouraging everyone to take sun safety seriously this summer.

The PHA and Cancer Focus NI are particularly highlighting care in the sun for men as part of Men’s Health Week, which runs from June 15 to 21.

Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, said: “Being active outdoors is good for our health, but despite our unpredictable weather, we are still exposed to significant levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, even on cloudy or breezy days. The majority of our population has fair skin, which provides little protection against the sun, so even a small amount of sun can cause serious skin damage over time and may lead to skin cancer.”

Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Co-ordinator, Cancer Focus NI, said: “Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Northern Ireland and accounts for 30% of all cancers diagnosed.

Around 3,550 people develop it each year. The incidence of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, has almost trebled in the past 25 years in Northern Ireland.

“During Men’s Health Week, we’d particularly like to encourage men to take care, especially those who work outdoors such as farmers, grounds staff, postal and construction workers, as well as men who enjoy outdoor activities.”

Local man Kieran Connolly was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2009. He was just back from honeymoon and took his mum’s advice to get a sun spot checked out by his GP.

“A spot half the size of my finger nail resulted in a scar three inches long. The surgery was probably the least distressing part of my experience. Over the next three years the regular checks and waiting to see if it came back or had spread was the worst feeling,” Kieran said.

“I never really took sun safety seriously prior to my experience with skin cancer and had experienced burning on several occasions when I was younger.

“Following my diagnosis my outlook on sun protection has changed considerably.  I enjoy cycling and walking but now cover up with protective clothing or opt just not to go out in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest.”

When you are outdoors this summer, there are a number of simple steps you can take to protect against harmful UV rays and by following these tips, we can all enjoy the benefits of healthier, more active and happier lifestyles in a safe way.

Tips on how to stay safe in the sun:

  • Seek shade when the sun is at its strongest – generally 11am to 3pm
  • Cover up in the sun with a long sleeved T-shirt, sunglasses and a hat
  • Use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 for UVB protection and 4 star for UVA protection. Apply liberally 30 minutes before going out in the sun and re-apply at least every two hours
  • Be sure to cover areas which are sometimes missed, such as the lips, ears, around the eyes, neck, scalp and backs of hands

If you are concerned about skin cancer you should talk to your GP. You can also call the Cancer Focus NI’s free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the charity’s nurses on [email protected] Early detection of skin cancer can significantly improve survival so regularly checking your skin is important.

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