Northern Ireland

Skin cancer rates rise in over-50s in Northern Ireland

Health promotion groups strongly urge the use of skin protection cream when in the sun
Image caption Health promotion groups strongly urge the use of skin protection cream when in the sun

Cases of skin cancer in the over-50s in Northern Ireland have soared in the past 15 years, according to new figures.

Cancer Research UK said the rates of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, had risen by almost a third among those aged 50-59.

It means that every week in Northern Ireland one person in this age group is diagnosed with the disease - making it the sixth most common cancer among the over 50s.

Cancer Research UK said this marked a "significant shift" since the mid-1990s.

Then, there were about 18 cases of malignant melanoma among every 100,000 people in their 50s, but this has risen to about 24 per 100,000.

It is thought the rise has been linked to the generation's tanning habits in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Northern Ireland, said: "If people are diagnosed when the cancer is in the early stages, before it has had a chance to spread around the body, treatment is more likely to be successful."

The soaring rates of skin cancer across the UK have prompted supermarket chain Tesco to launch an in-store awareness campaign with Cancer Research UK.

Image caption Helen Lowry died from a malignant melanoma last year at just 42.

The aim is to raise awareness of the early signs of cancer - including malignant melanoma - because the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chance people have of beating the disease.

Ms Walsh added that they wanted to get the early diagnosis message across to millions of people this summer.

"We want to highlight the signs and symptoms of skin cancer and encourage people to visit their doctor promptly if they notice any unusual changes in their skin," she said.

Earlier this month, a Belfast woman whose 42-year-old daughter died from skin cancer appealed to the government to remove taxes from sun screen lotions to help save lives.

Helen Lowry died from a malignant melanoma last year.

Sun cream is taxed at the current UK VAT rate of 20% and can cost anything between £2 and £20.

An average bottle costs around £7.99, of which £1.33 would be VAT.

Helen Lowry's mother Beryl McKee believes people in Northern Ireland do not apply sun lotion because of the cost and they do not believe that the rays from local sunshine are strong.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer as it can travel to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat.

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