IFA & HSE Join To Encourage Farmers To Be SunSmart To Reduce Risks of Skin Cancer

The IFA and HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) have teamed up to encourage farmers to be SunSmart and to protect their skin from the sun to reduce their risk of skin cancer.

IFA Farm Family & Social Affairs Chair Alice Doyle said that farmers are exposed to 2-3 times more UV radiation from the sun compared with people who work indoors, putting them at a higher risk of skin cancer.

“To reduce the risk of skin damage, farmers should organise their day so that you are in the shade when UV rays are strongest from 11am to 3pm,” she said.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland, with over 13,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Nine out of every 10 cases are caused by UV rays from the sun or sunbeds.

Dr Triona McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, HSE’s NCCP said thatworking outdoors is an everyday part of farming life but it is important to take simple steps to protect skin from the sun to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

“Don’t just wait for hot and sunny days to use sun protection – UV from the sun is damaging, even on cool, cloudy days. It is important to protect skin from April to September as you cannot see or feel the UV rays which cause damage to the skin.”

The SunSmart 5 S’s campaign encourages people to protect their skin from the sun by:

Slip on clothing that covers your skin such as long sleeves, collared t-shirts;

Slop on sunscreen on exposed areas, using factor 30+ for adults and apply 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply regularly – more often if sweating;

Slap on a wide-brimmed hat, hard hats and helmets can have attachable brims and neck flaps;

Seek shade especially if outdoors between 11am and 3pm. Farmers can check the sun’s UV forecast for your area on Met Eireann’s website or app at www.met.ie/uv-index;

Slide on sunglasses to protect your eyes.

More information on the SunSmart campaign is available on www.hse.ie/sunsmart.  

(Source – IFA Website – Online At: https://www.ifa.ie/campaigns/ifa-hse-join-encourage-farmers-to-be-sunsmart-to-reduce-risks-of-skin-cancer/ )

Case Study – Heartbreak At 19 — A Freckle Turns Into Skin Cancer

Specialist nurse says we should all be using suncream every day.

Kate Moloney was diagnosed with skin cancer when she was 19 years old. She was stunned by the news and was still reeling from the death of her father to bowel cancer just three years earlier.

“It started as a freckle on my right calf at age 16,” she says. “I picked at it and it bled, then I didn’t do anything about it until I was 19. By then it had developed into a black, bumpy, itchy growth, about the size of a two-cent coin.

“I was going to the doctor about a chest infection and my mother insisted I get the GP to look at my lump too, she didn’t like the look of it,” the Clare woman told the Sunday Independent.

Kate Moloney in Killarney, Co Kerry. Pic. Domnick Walsh.

The doctor recognised it as a potential melanoma and sent Kate to see a specialist. Her worst fears were soon realised. Her consultant recommended surgery to remove it.

“I actually had cancer at the same time as my dad,” says Kate. “Both of us had it and didn’t realise. My dad was diagnosed, and six weeks later he died.”

To Kate and her family’s relief, her surgery was a success and the cancer had not spread. Shortly afterwards, she left for America, having been offered a job playing the flute and accordion in a traditional Irish music troupe.

“I pushed down everything that happened to me, as well as my father’s death, I didn’t deal with any of it emotionally. I just ran away from all of it. I was young and I just couldn’t deal with it, so I didn’t.”

Fast forward seven years, Kate was back living in Ireland, completing a masters to become a primary school teacher.

“I noticed I had a lump in my groin area. I didn’t want to believe the cancer had come back. But my surgeon had me well warned since the first cancer, that if it was to come back, it would most likely be in the groin.”

Kate’s worst fears were realised for a second time. “I felt like I was walking the plank,” she says. “But I would be dead if I had ignored it. If I hadn’t been so well warned by my surgeon about the possibility of it reappearing in my groin area, I wouldn’t be here.

“I suddenly had to deal with an explosion of emotions. I was very angry and sad, I wallowed for a while. When I found out the cancer was back, I went and bought a six-pack of cider and drank it.”

What followed was a physically difficult series of surgeries and medical complications. Emotionally, Kate realised it was time to deal with the impact of the death of her father and the mental toll of her own cancer diagnosis.

“I’m cancer free now,” she says. “I’m also in so much of a better place and that’s down to therapy and dealing with all of things I refused to address when I was younger. The cancer, in the end, was a good thing. I’m much happier now.”

Kate is now a patient advocate for the HSE #SunSmart campaign, raising awareness about the prevalence of skin cancer.

“My message is, if you have a lump or something that doesn’t feel right on your skin, get it checked. Don’t feel like you’re being a hypochondriac. I nearly waved it off twice.”

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Ireland with almost 13,000 cases per year. But it is largely preventable, by protecting our skin from the sun and other artificial sources like sunbeds, according to Selene Daly, dermatology clinical nurse specialist at Sligo University Hospital.

Latest research shows that skin cancer rates are due to double in Ireland by 2040.

“From the beginning of March to the end of September, everyone should be putting on suncream every day. Even when the sun doesn’t seem to be out, the UV rays come through the clouds,” says Ms Daly.

For more details, visit hse.ie/SunSmart and #SunSmart on social media

(Source – Irish Independent – Health & Wellbeing – Ali Bracken – 08/05/2022)

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