Skin cancer is one the most common cancers in Ireland. And news of actor Hugh Jackman's 6th battle with the disease highlights just how important early detection is, with the actor praising frequent checks and his doctor's work being key to his improving health.

The Xmen actor was met with an outpour of support from fans;

We talked to The Irish Cancer Society, on how people can best recognise the signs of skin cancer, and what we can do to prevent it.

Typical symptoms

Skin cancers do not all look the same. They can appear as any of the following:

  • A small lump
  • Flat, red spot
  • Firm, red lump
  • A lump or spot that is tender to touch
  • An ulcer that will not heal
  • A lump with a scaly or horny top
  • Rough, scaly patches
  • Signs of melanoma

Melanoma is different than skin cancer and often more serious; it affects the cells that make melanin (the pigment) in your skin.

Signs of melanoma include:

  • A mole that has changed colour, size or shape
  • A mole that is bleeding, oozing or crusting

If you are worried about any of these symptoms,the Irish Cancer society recommend you should go see your GP for an examination.

Most At Risk:
The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet light (UV) radiation from sunlight. There are two types of UV light that reach the Earth: UVA and UVB, both of which are harmful.

Using tanning or sunbeds can increase your risk

Skin cancer can take 20 to 30 years to develop but some people are more at risk than others.

You may develop skin cancer later in life, if you:

  • Have fair, light-coloured skin that freckles or burns easily
  • Had severe sunburn or blistering as a child
  • Have been exposed to sunlight all your life
  • Use tanning beds or sunbeds
  • Have a history of severe skin damage, e.g. burnt skin
  • Have a history of skin cancer, or in your family
  • Have a history of moles on your skin
  • Have been exposed to certain chemicals like coal tar, soot, petrol products, etc.
  • Have had radiotherapy in the past
  • Have a weak immune system from taking certain medications that suppress your system.
  • Have a rare inherited condition like albinism or xeroderma pigmentosa

Prevention

Most skin cancers can be prevented by avoiding the sun when it's at its strongest and by paying attention to any early skin changes. It is also important to examine your skin regularly.

The Irish Cancer Society's advice is to:

  • Avoid sun exposure
  • Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm, when the sun's rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing. Clothing should be dark and tightly woven and cover your arms and legs. Also wear a broad-brimmed hat and wraparound sunglasses.
  • Always wear sunscreen. Apply the cream 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Apply thickly and evenly every 2 hours no matter how high its protection. Make sure you're protected against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Sunscreen should have a SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher. The bottle should have UVA marked on it.
  • Avoid tanning beds or sunbeds.

For more information on, call the Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, check out the SunSmart Code at www.cancer.ie/sunsmart or visit www.cancer.ie

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