May: Skin Cancer Awareness Month

As we welcome the warmer weather (here’s hoping) and brighter days, it's crucial to remember the importance of sun safety, especially in our beautiful, but sometimes unpredictable, Irish climate.

There are over 13,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in Ireland every year. With our predominantly fair skin and the misconception that cloudy days mean less risk, many of us underestimate the harmful effects of UV radiation. But the truth is, UV rays can penetrate clouds and cause damage to our skin even on overcast days.

Listen to our very own, Professor Niki Ralph, talk to Pat Kenny as part of the Skin Deep Series on Newstalk. She delves into what to look for and how to take care of your skin to prevent skin cancer.

Stay safe in the sun this summer

As we embrace the outdoors and soak up the sun this summer, let's also prioritise protecting our skin. Here are a few simple yet effective tips to help you stay safe in the sun:

  1. Wear sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and don't forget to reapply every two hours, especially if you're swimming or sweating. We recommend EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46
  2. Seek shade: When the sun's rays are at their strongest, typically between 10AM and 4PM, find shade under a tree, umbrella, or canopy to reduce your exposure
  3. Cover up: Wear protective clothing, including long sleeves, trousers, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with UV protection to shield your skin and eyes from the sun
  4. Perform regular skin checks: Take the time to examine your skin from head to toe regularly. Look for any changes in moles, freckles, or spots, and consult a GP/Dermatologist if you notice anything suspicious. Check out our ABCDE method below for checking moles.

By incorporating these simple habits into our daily routines, we can significantly reduce our risk of skin cancer and protect our skin's health for years to come.

Checking your skin

At the Institute of Dermatologists, we're passionate about safeguarding your skin health and would like everyone to feel confident in checking their own skin. Moles, those small clusters of pigmented cells, can sometimes undergo changes that warrant attention. By familiarising yourself with the signs and regularly checking your skin, you become an active participant in your own health journey. Here's how you can take charge: 

  1. ABCDE rule: Keep this handy guide in mind. Look for asymmetry, irregular borders, varied colour, diameter larger than 6mm, and evolving changes in your moles. If any of these characteristics seem off, it's time to seek professional advice
  2. Mirror check: Don't just glance at the easily visible areas. Take the time to examine your entire body using a full-length mirror. Pay close attention to your scalp, back, and other hard-to-see spots. Remember, early detection starts with thoroughness. Ask your partner/close family member to check area’s you can’t see
  3. Familiarise yourself: Get to know your moles intimately. Take note of their size, shape, and colour. By establishing a baseline, you'll be better equipped to spot any deviations or new developments
  4. Regular checks: Consistency is key. Incorporate mole checks into your monthly routine. Whether it's tied to a specific date, synced with a recurring task, or set as a reminder on your phone, make it a habit. Your future self will thank you
  5. Seek professional help: Trust your instincts. If you notice any changes in your moles or have concerns about a particular spot, don't hesitate to reach out to your GP/Dermatologist. Our expert dermatologists are here to provide guidance, support, and, if necessary, intervention. 
How to check skin cancer melanomas

By taking proactive steps and staying vigilant, we can collectively reduce the impact of skin cancer. Your skin is a precious asset, worthy of care and attention. Let's commit to nurturing it, not just this month, but every day. Together, we can create a future where skin cancer is a preventable, manageable condition. If you notice any changes in your skin then don't hesitate to get in touch.