Campaigner looks to put a cap on melanoma cases

Senior infants from Bun Scoil Chriost Rí, Turners Cross wearing their sunhats.

It may have been a summer for rain rather than sun, but a group of people in Cork who have been affected by melanoma are determined to protect children from harmful UV rays.

The Sunny Days Melanoma Cancer Awareness campaign has got four schools, three in Cork and one in Kerry, to sign up to a sun hat pilot project which this month will see groups of children in each school wearing sunhats throughout the month of September.

That is because the UV index is at its highest from April through to September. Internationally, many countries are now being proactive in this regard. In Australia, every school has a “no hat, no play” policy and many schools in the UK are now considered “sun-safe” — they provide shade where possible in schoolyards and children must wear sun hats from April to October.

The schools to have signed up to the pilot scheme are Knockanes NS, Killarney; St Anthony’s BNS, Ballinlough, Cork; Bunscoil Chriost Rí, Turner’s Cross, Cork; and Our Lady of Lourdes GNS, Ballinlough, Cork.

As well as the sunhat campaign, Sunny Days wants to educate, encourage, and change all people’s attitudes towards sun safety.

Anne O’Leary, who is spearheading the campaign, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma almost three years ago.

“I set up the Sunny Days Melanoma Cancer Awareness page earlier this summer as I got suddenly energised and motivated to try to change Irish people’s attitudes to sun protection, try help change Irish people’s behaviours in the sun and also speak out about the reality of melanoma in this country,” she said.

“My own experienced has strongly highlighted the lack of education and awareness out there about the seriousness of melanoma. Personally, I think that because it doesn’t have the word ‘cancer’ in it that it is dismissed as just being a mole.

“It began by a friend of mine, Rachel, who has breast cancer, pointing out to me that there should be support facilities out there for melanoma patients.

“Breast cancer patients have an abundance of wonderful support set ups. My experience with melanoma was a very lonely one initially. I knew nothing about it and knew no-one who had the same medical experience as myself. I then started my quest to start talking about the seriousness of melanoma and everything that goes with it.”

She said consultant dermatologist Catherine Gleeson has given Sunny Days information on the importance of sun protection for parents to be taken home along with the hats.

Cork, through South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital and Cork University Hospital, has one of the largest melanoma services in the country. The South Infirmary run a rapid access pigmented lesion clinic for suspected melanomas and accepts referrals via GP.


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