Children are the focus of Melanoma Awareness Month, with diagnoses of the skin cancer rising steadily every year.

Minister for Health James Reilly said this morning that 80% of sun damage to the skin happens before the age of 20.

Consultant Dermatologist Dr Patrick Ormonde said there has been a 44% rise in young women being diagnosed with melanoma after damaging their skin when they were younger.

He said it can take between 15 and 30 years for melanoma to manifest itself and diagnoses are increasing every year by around 5%.

Dr Ormonde said children's skin is different to adults, as it is thinner and the burning signs do not show as quickly.

He said: "The damage your five or ten-year-old will have done by sunburn or being exposed to high levels of sun will affect them in their 20s or 30s. We're beginning to see that already.

"There has been about a 44% rise in melanoma in young women. The reason for that is that damage was done previously, so it is now beginning to appear."