On 22 March 2023, Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, launched the National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2023-2026, in the Department of Health1.
Rising incidence of skin cancer
Skin cancer* is the most common cancer in Ireland. According to the National Cancer Registry, annual average incidence during 2018-2020 was 12,668 cases per year 2. This figure has more than doubled since 1994 and is projected to more than double again by 2045, to 33,204 cases 3 4.
However, the majority of skin cancers could be prevented; ultraviolet radiation (UV) exposure, emitted naturally in sunlight or from artificial sources e.g. sunbeds, is the main risk factor 4.
The National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2023-2026 5 was developed by the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) in partnership with Healthy Ireland, Department of Health and was completed in consultation with healthcare professionals, cancer charities and national organisations representing priority groups. 1, 5
The new plan 2023-2026 aims to build on the work of the first National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2019-2022 4, to increase awareness and improve adoption of skin cancer prevention behaviours, to tackle Ireland’s high rates of skin cancer.
It includes a number of actions to target specific groups identified as being particularly vulnerable to UV damage from the sun and/or artificial sources e.g. sunbeds.
These include: children, adolescents and young people, outdoor workers, those who participate in sports, recreation and tourism, as well as sunbed users. 1, 5
Launching the new plan Minister Naughton said:
‘Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ireland, but it is also largely preventable and we can all significantly reduce our risk by adopting practical skin protection behaviours.’ 1
Dr Triona McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, National Cancer Control Programme, said:
‘It is so important for physical and mental health to enjoy time outdoors but we should do so while also protecting skin from UV radiation to reduce the risk of our most common cancer. The best ways to protect skin are to cover up with long sleeves, a sunhat, sunglasses and use sunscreen; limit time in the sun when UV radiation is strongest, typically between the hours of 11am and 3pm, from April to September in Ireland; and never use a sunbed.’ 1
Ms Bernie Rice, Skin cancer prevention campaigner, spoke very movingly about how malignant melanoma skin cancer took the life of her daughter Sharon.
‘Skin cancer is preventable. In Sharon’s memory, I try to raise awareness of the importance of protecting your skin from the sun, in the hope that it will help save lives.’ 1
The rising incidence of skin cancer is an important public health issue. The Irish Skin Foundation (ISF) welcomes the publication of the new National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2023-2026. We are very eager that the foundations laid, and the work and momentum achieved with the first National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2019-2022, continues.
David McMahon, CEO, ISF comments:
‘It’s been very encouraging to see Government, Department of Health, NCCP and Healthy Ireland support for skin cancer prevention, come together with charities and NGOs working in the area in recent years.
This new national prevention plan is how the ISF see’s public health policy deliver on the ground and for the future health of everyone living in Ireland.
I see the previous plan, this latest plan, and hopefully continued commitment through other initiatives, as crucial to changing attitudes and behaviours. Skin cancers are largely preventable, public health agencies have a key role to play and this plan is evidence that there is real commitment to taking on that challenge.’
Proudly supporting Healthy Ireland SunSmart
The prevention of skin cancer caused by natural and artificial UV is the particular emphasis of the ISF’s work in the area of skin cancer. We are a member of the National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan Implementation Group, chaired by the NCCP, and the Irish Cancer Prevention Network, with whom we work collaboratively to support cancer risk reduction initiatives, specifically Healthy Ireland SunSmart.
Skin cancer prevention resources
A wide array of skin cancer prevention resources including videos, leaflets, infographics and articles are available at the ISF’s dedicated SunSmart webpage and at the Health Service Executive NCCP’s SunSmart hub.
*Skin cancer is the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells
- Department of Health. Press release. Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy launches the National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2023-2026. Available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/9cbe8-minister-for-public-health-wellbeing-and-the-national-drugs-strategy-launches-the-national-skin-cancer-prevention-plan-2023-2026/ [Accessed on March 5th 2023]
- National Cancer Registry Ireland. Cancer in Ireland 1994-2020: Annual statistical report of the National Cancer Registry 2022. NCRI, Cork, Ireland.
- National Cancer Registry (2019) Cancer incidence projections for Ireland 2020-2045. National Cancer Registry, Cork.
- Department of Health. Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2019-2022. Department of Health 2019. Available at: https://assets.gov.ie/10881/3ab68311928e4afd9c2e3602dd4f00fc.pdf [Accessed on March 5th 2023]
- Department of Health. Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2023-2026. Department of Health 2023.