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McGimpsey launches consultation on new strategy to prevent skin cancer

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Health Minister today launched a public consultation on a strategy aimed at reducing skin cancer in Northern Ireland.

The new 10 year strategy and action plan will focus primarily on the prevention and early detection of skin cancers. While the draft strategy has been developed to take account of the population as a whole, it pays particular attention to children and young people, and those who spend significant periods of time outdoors through work or leisure.

Launching the consultation, Michael McGimpsey said: “The incidence of skin cancer has been rising in recent years and it is now the most common form of cancer in Northern Ireland. What is shocking about this is that experts believe almost four fifths of these cases could be prevented if people adopted some simple precautions. Avoiding excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation - the principal source of which is the sun – is very important when it comes to limiting the risk of skin cancer.

“The popularity and increased use of sunbeds has also contributed to the recent rises in skin cancer here.”

During the period 2003 to 2007, an average of 2,750 new cases of skin cancer was diagnosed annually – around 233 of which were malignant melanomas, the most serious type of skin cancer. Figures show that in 2007 malignant melanoma alone caused 55 deaths in Northern Ireland and left hundreds of people requiring surgery to remove melanomas.

The Minister continued: “Skin cancer is a serious health issue, and action taken today will reap benefits for future generations. Northern Ireland has a good record in terms of awareness raising about care in the sun, largely due to the excellent work carried out by the Northern Ireland Melanoma Strategy Implementation Group. We need to ensure that progress made in this area is taken further. I believe the new 10 year strategy steers us in the right direction for reducing preventable skin cancer.

“I want the message to be heard loud and clear by everyone that they should take care in the sun and avoid the use of sun beds in order to reduce their risk of skin cancer.”

The Minister concluded: “I therefore wish to seek the public’s views on the contents of the draft strategy and action plan which will set the strategic direction for skin cancer prevention well into the future.”

The consultation is available on the DHSSPS website and will last 12 weeks from 05 October 2010 to 24 December 2010.

Notes to editors:

1. Copies of the consultation document are available on the DHSSPS website

2. The consultation sets out a number of questions on the content of the draft Strategy and Action Plan and also asks for any recommendations or suggestions people may have. It sets out a number of objectives and targets including;

  • to increase public awareness regarding the dangers of overexposure to UV radiation from sunlight and from artificial tanning devices;
  • to increase awareness about the early signs of skin cancer and the need for prompt attention;
  • to increase individual and organisation wide practice of sun safety behaviours; and
  • to increase the proportion of the population who check their skin for signs of cancer once a month or more.

3. The Working Group to develop the new Strategy and Action Plan included representatives from the Ulster Cancer Foundation, NI Cancer Network, NI Cancer Registry, District Councils and the Public Health Agency.

4. The Public Health Agency will be responsible for the overall monitoring of the Strategy and Action Plan and will establish an implementation group to drive it forward.

5. The first Strategy aimed at preventing skin cancer in Northern Ireland was developed in 1997 and was taken forward by the Northern Ireland Melanoma Strategy Implementation Group (NIMSIG). It achieved a number of successful outcomes, was the first of its kind in the UK and provided a valuable steer for the development of skin cancer programmes. A review recommended that in light of developments in the area over recent years that a new Strategy and Action Plan should be developed.

6. Press enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0575, out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.