Skin Cancer

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About Skin Cancer

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin. It occurs when DNA damage is caused to skin cells (most often by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds), that trigger mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.

Skin cancers can grow slowly and it can take some years before a cancer is noticed. But sometimes a skin cancer can grow very quickly, within a few months.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Northern Ireland, accounting for over 31% of all cancers here, 2.9% of which are malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer.


Some NI skin cancer facts:

  • About 4,361 people in Northern Ireland develop skin cancer each year
  • Of these around 399 are malignant melanomas, the most serious type of skin cancer
  • Each year skin cancers kill around 93 people in Northern Ireland
  • Melanoma shows higher rates for females
  • Rates of melanoma increase with age, although a significant number of cases occur in people under 35

Both Michelle and Kieran were diagnosed with skin cancer in their 30s. Listen to their story here: