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The Great Escape: wherever your holidays take you this year, reduce your risk of melanoma skin cancer

As many of us embark on our summer holidays in the next few weeks, the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), the Irish Skin Foundation (ISF), and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) are reminding everyone of the importance of protecting skin from overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to reduce their risk of skin cancer*.

June 28, 2024

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The advice is particularly important for parents as children spend more time outside with the end of the school year. Playing and spending time outdoors is good for us all but it is important to enjoy the sun safely and protect skin when outside.

The ISF’s and NCCP reminder to protect your skin during the summer-holiday season comes ahead of the launch of a new campaign poster ‘Reduce your risk of Melanoma Skin Cancer (Holidaying at home or abroad)’. The poster is aimed at the sun-loving public but with a particular focus on people who intend to spend time holidaying in the sun, whether at home or abroad.

The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the link between personal risk of skin cancer i.e. skin type, the number of sunny holidays and the strength of the UV exposure and the pattern and timing of UV exposure. The launch coincides with the end of the school year and the gearing up for the traditional family holiday season.

David McMahon, CEO, Irish Skin Foundation says; “Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. In most cases it is preventable and is mainly caused by overexposure to UV. With holidays on our mind, it’s timely to remind everybody, wherever they are going, that they can reduce their risk of melanoma. Make sun protection part of your daily routine, particularly when the UV index is 3 or above, even when it is cloudy.

“Every year in Ireland over 11,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer. Over 1,200 of these are new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and this figure is rising rapidly.”

Dr Breeda Neville, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, NCCP says; “If you are badly sunburnt more than 3 times before the age of 20, you more than double your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer as an adult.

““Many people living in Ireland have fair skin, the type which burns easily and tans poorly, so are at high risk of UV damage and skin cancer. Overexposure to UV radiation during childhood is particularly harmful so protecting skin during childhood is extremely important.

Prof Deirdre Murray, National Cancer Registry Ireland says;

“From 1994 to 2014, the chance of men being diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer went up by 5% each year. This increase has levelled off in more recent years. However, in women, the chance of a melanoma skin cancer diagnosis increased by 2.3% every year from 1994 to 2019, with no evidence of levelling off. “The good news is that the majority of skin cancers could be prevented by protecting ourselves from the sun’s UV rays, and from artificial sources of UV, for example sunbeds. This is particularly important for children and young people whose skin is more vulnerable to damage from UV, and this damage is cumulative, adding up over a lifetime.

Professor Anne Marie Tobin, Consultant Dermatologist in Tallaght University Hospital says;

“Occasional, intense sun exposure and sunburn such as during recreational outdoor activities or holidaying in a hot country increases melanoma risk. By protecting children and young people’s skin when they are outdoors, you can reduce their risk of developing skin cancer in years to come. It is also not enough to use these protection measures on sunny days alone. Even on cool or cloudy days, UV rays from the sun can still reach our skin without us realising it.

The SunSmart 5 S’s can protect children’s skin and prevent sunburn, even when it is cloudy:

  • Slip on clothing: Cover skin as much as possible e.g. wear long sleeves, collared t-shirts, clothes made from close woven material that does not allow sunlight through.
  • Slop on broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children, with high UVA protection, and water resistant. Reapply regularly
  • Slap on a hat with a wide (7cm+) brim and a UPF rating of 50: Protect your face, ears and neck.
  • Seek shade to avoid direct sunlight e.g. under cover of a sun umbrella or trees. Use a sunshade on buggies / prams. Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight.
  • Slide on sunglasses with UV protection: Guard your eyes from harm.


  • Do not deliberately suntan.
  • Avoid sunbathing/sunburning.
  • Never ever use a sunbed! There is no safe limit for exposure to UV from sunbeds.
  • For children up to 1 year old, it is best that they stay and play in the shade and wear clothing that covers their skin when outdoors.
  • It is better to protect babies up to 6 months old from sunlight by using shade and clothing rather than sunscreen. You may choose to use sunscreen sometimes on small parts of baby’s skin. If you do, choose a sunscreen that is for babies such as sensitive or toddler sunscreen.

For more information and to learn how to protect yourself and your family this summer visit the SunSmart hub at and Check out #SunSmart on social media too.

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