Stormont building APGC

All-Party Group on Cancer Discusses Skin Cancer and its Prevention

Yesterday afternoon, the All-Party Group on Cancer at the NI Assembly met to discuss Skin Cancer and its Prevention. The APG featured presentations from Consultant Dermatologist Dr David Alderdice, Consultant Nurse Sheena Stothers, Dr Louise Herron (Deputy Director of Public Health at the NI Public Health Agency), and Doreen Regan, Skin Cancer Prevention Co-Ordinator at Cancer Focus NI.

Some key takeaways from the discussion were:

  • Skin cancer cases are predicted to double by 2040 – this is set to be a “tsunami” of new cases
  • All cancers should be diagnosed as early as possible – early detection is usually better for the patient, and for the health service
  • The use of AI for skin cancer detection, through programmes like mole-mapping, can improve screening – this can detect melanomas earlier, helping make diagnoses quicker and offering additional reassurance to high-risk patients (currently, HSC mole-mapping is run as a pilot co-sponsored by Cancer Focus NI and the SE Trust)
  • Such programmes can be relatively “low cost to high benefit” with potential to be introduced across NI
  • While it is important to optimise skin cancer treatment and care, it is also critical to prioritise preventing future skin cancers through measures such as promoting UV awareness and protection
  • Sunscreen is highly recommended to protect skin from UV damage; it should have an SPF of at least 30 (to protect against UVB rays) and UVA protection of 4-5 stars
  • Sunscreen does not have to be expensive to offer quality protection, but it does need to be applied liberally (“golf ball”-size amounts) and re-applied every two hours while in sunlight
  • While holiday sun poses a risk, UV exposure at home in Northern Ireland is also damaging for our skin; protection is recommended especially from April to September, as UV from the sun is stronger during these months in NI
  • Sunbeds are “inherently dangerous” and are classified as a Class-1 carcinogen by IARC
  • The surge in demand and resource intensity of skin cancer diagnoses and treatments within dermatology departments risk leaving other debilitating skin conditions, such as psoriasis and other rashes, to “languish” on already lengthy waiting lists

Speaking about the APG, Doreen Regan, Skin Cancer Prevention Co-Ordinator, said: “It was great to see the APG draw attention to skin cancers and what we can do to prevent these cancers, optimise treatments, and improve patient outcomes. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in NI. We need a new Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy and to act on opportunities to improve screening and waiting times – we are glad to see so many MLAs shared these concerns.”

Cancer Focus NI serves as the Secretariat of the All-Party Group on Cancer, which is chaired by MLA Paula Bradshaw. Learn more about the APG here and about about how to reduce your skin cancer risk here.