Cork had the highest number of days last year when the sun was strong enough to cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
However, while Cork’s ultraviolet (UV) index was three or higher on 95% of days between April and September, it did not translate into higher levels of skin cancer.
According to the National Cancer Registry, the HSE South was close to the national average in relation to non-melanoma skin cancer.
The Irish Cancer Society highlighted UV index levels across the country at the launch of its latest SunSmart campaign.
Last year’s levels were highest in the south and west of the country.
The society’s cancer prevention officer, Rosemary Scott, said a person’s risk of skin cancer also depends on their behaviour when out in the sun.
“People down south need to be particularly mindful that the UV levels do reach a point where skin protection is warranted,” she said.
People need to wear sunscreen, cover up or seek shade when the UV index is three or higher
The society found that UV levels across Ireland were high enough to cause skin damage on almost 90% of the days between April and September last year.
After Cork, Galway had the second-highest number of days where the UV index was three or higher, at just over 90%, followed by Limerick (89.5%), Donegal (82.9%), and Dublin (81.2%).
Ireland has the highest reported incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer in Europe and most cases of skin cancer are caused by UV radiation, which comes from the sun.
UV rays cannot be seen or felt and up to 90% of UV rays can get through light cloud.
The number of new cases of melanoma and non- melanoma skin cancer in Ireland reached over 100,000 for the first time in 2011 — an 81% incidence increase since records began in 1994.
The largest increase in cases was found in young people who live in affluent urban settings, who are exposed to repeated sunburn, probably from leisure activities.
The Irish Cancer Society is urging people to take action to reduce their risk of skin cancer.
Skin cancer can be prevented in nine out of 10 cases by protecting the skin from overexposure to UV rays.
The society is also asking organisations involved in outdoor sporting and work activities to think about what they could to support their members in reducing their UV exposure.
“You certainly do need a level of UV exposure to help reach your vitamin D needs but never enough to cause your skin to go pink or burn,” said Ms Scott.
“The recommendation from the World Health Organisation is five to 15 minutes of incidental sun exposure two to three times a week.”
Ms Scott said using sun cream was just one of the ways to protect skin from harmful rays. People need to stay in the shade, if possible.
In recent years young city dwellers with intermittent sun exposure have been seen to be more at risk and greater numbers are presenting to their doctor with skin cancer each year.
The society’s UV index is available at cancer.ie/uvindex.
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