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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:
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.
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.
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.
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