Mater Private: Prevention is key in fight against skin cancer

With Daffodil Day just a week away, it’s that time of year again to highlight the truth about skin cancer.

Mater Private: Prevention is key in fight against skin cancer

Ms Jenny Lynch from Mater Private Hospital, Cork is a plastic surgeon who specialises in aesthetic, reconstructive and hand surgery.

Growing up in Cork, she knows how Irish people may have unfounded confidence that the risks associated with sun exposure in Ireland are very low.

However, From March to September, ultraviolet UV radiation is high in Ireland, even in cloudy skies and on rainy days.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland with more than 10,000 people affected per year and, in most cases, it is completely curable if detected early and treated. It is also the most common cancer in people aged between 15 and 50.

Ms Lynch points out that our pale skin is particularly susceptible to skin cancer.

Anyone in Ireland with continued outdoor UV exposure in their daily life including jobs like farming, or in sports are at increased risk.

Every year, she treats patients in need of plastic surgery to excise pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions from areas of the body frequently exposed for long periods to the sun’s harmful UV light, including the hands and face.

She can’t emphasise strongly enough the point that with skin cancer, like many cancers, prevention is the key.

The Irish Cancer Society has excellent advice on how to prevent skin cancer they recommend avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm.

During these hours, the sun’s rays are strongest and UV radiation is highest.

Wear protective clothing which is tightly woven and covers your arms and legs. Also wear a broad-brimmed hat and wraparound sunglasses which will help protect your neck and eyes.

Always apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out into the sun and apply thickly and evenly every two hours thereafter no matter how high its protection. Make sure the cream chosen has protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

The sunscreen should have a SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher and 30-50 is better.

Tanning and sun beds are proven to significantly increase the risk of skin cancer and should be avoided by everyone and particularly the young.

Ms Lynch explains when examining lesions a good assessment tool used by many doctors is ABCD. Which stands for Asymmetry, Border, Colour and Diameter.

Most small benign moles are even in their appearance, with a clearly defined border, an even brown colour and a relatively small diameter.

If the edge of the mole is not clearly defined, or the mole is varied in colour, or increasing in size or bleeding, medical advice should be obtained.

Two of the common skin cancers she sees are basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinomas are much more common than any other and it is estimated that one in three people in Ireland will get this type of skin cancer.

It is a skin cancer that rarely travels into the body to affect other organs. It is almost always curable with a minor, day case, surgical procedure.

Basal cell carcinoma is typically a small raised nodule which grows on the sun-exposed parts of the body, such as the face or the back of hands.

Squamous cell is a flat, often scaly red patch of skin and may be present for a few months before medical attention is sought. The majority of patients will be cured after surgery as a day patient.

Finally, Ms Lynch returns to her original point that skin cancer is very much a preventable disease, so cover up, wear sunscreen, spend time in the shade especially around midday and don’t assume that a cloudy sky protects you from the sun’s harmful UV rays, because it doesn’t.

* Visit www.cancer.ie  and learn more about what you can do to prevent skin cancer and how you can help on Daffodil Day, March 24 th.

Ms Jenny Lynch 021-601 3200; www.materprivate.ie/cork

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