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Skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland, with over 13,000 new cases diagnosed every year. The National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) expects this number to double by 2040.

Skin cancer is a disease of skin cells. Nine out of every ten cases are caused by UV rays from the sun or sunbeds. 

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What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland, with over 13,000 new cases diagnosed every year. The National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) expects this number to double by 2040.

Skin cancer is a disease of skin cells. 9 out of every 10 cases are caused by UV rays from the sun or sunbeds. Over exposure to UV rays, which leads to tanning, redness or burning of the skin, causes damage to skin cells. While much of this damage is repaired some remains and can lead to skin cancer later in life. Reduce your risk by following the SunSmart code.

Early detection is also vital. If spotted early up to 90% of cases are curable. In the case of melanoma skin cancer spotting it early can save your life. For this reason it is important to get to know your skin, check it every month for change and speak to your doctor if you are worried.

Types of skin cancer

The skin is the largest organ in the body and is made up of two layers:

  • The epidermis is the outer layer
  • The dermis is the inner layer

Skin cancers are generally named after the cells in the skin where they grow. There are two main groups of skin cancer: 

Non-melanoma skin cancers

These are the most common types of skin cancer and include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. They tend to grow in areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun and are more common in older people.

It's estimated that an average of 12,000 non-melanoma skin cancers were diagnosed in Ireland during 2018-2020.

What are the symptoms of non-melanoma skin cancer?

Melanoma skin cancer

Melanoma is quite rare but greater numbers of people are being diagnosed with it each year. It is also a disease that affects young people. It's estimated that on average 1,100 melanoma skin cancers were diagnosed in Ireland during 2018-2020. 

Melanoma is one of the most serious forms of skin cancer but if spotted early, it is very treatable. If not, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious medical issues. 

What are they symptoms of melanoma skin cancer?

Skin changes to look out for

Skin cancers do not all look the same. They can appear in a number of ways including 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
  • A new or changing mole

Take the skin types quiz!

Find out what type of skin you have, and how it affects your skin cancer risk.

Different skin types

More information about skin cancer treatment

If your doctor is suspicious of anything on your skin a sample may be taken and sent for testing. You may also be sent to a see a dermatologist who is a specialist in skin diseases. Treatment of skin cancer can include surgery, laser therapy, radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy. The dermatologist will speak to you about these treatments if necessary.

Online Community Support

Looking for support?

Our cancer support section contains information and advice on coping with cancer for diagnosed patients and their loved ones.

Publications about skin cancer
Downloadable booklets and factsheets
Non-melanoma skin cancer leaflet
Non-melanoma Skin Cancer - What You Should Know leaflet
This leaflet gives you information on what to check your skin for when looking for change that could be non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common kind of skin cancer.
Melanoma skin cancer leaflet
Melanoma Skin Cancer - What You Should Know leaflet
This leaflet gives you information on what to check your skin for when looking for change that could be melanoma skin cancer.
Be Smart - Protect your skin on the farm leaflet
Be Smart - Protect your skin on the farm leaflet
The Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) have joined forces to remind farmers and all outdoor workers of the importance of protecting their skin to reduce the risk of skin cancer. This leaflet is distributed to farm families over the summer months.
Be Smart - Protect your skin on outdoor building sites leaflet
Be Smart - Protect your skin on building sites leaflet
The Irish Cancer Society and the Construction Industry Federation have joined forces to remind construction workers and all outdoor workers of the importance of protecting their skin to reduce the risk of skin cancer. This leaflet is istributed to building sites over the summer months.
Be Skin Smart - Melanoma
Be Skin Smart - Signs of Melanoma Poster
When checking for signs of skin cancer/melanoma, look for the following signs this summer.
Be Skin Smart - Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Be Skin Smart - Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Poster
When checking for signs of non-melanoma skin cancer, look for the following signs this summer.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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