A new skin cancer campaign launched by the Marie Keating Foundation is urging farmers to prioritise the health of their skin and be ‘SunSmart’ all year round.

The foundation explained that research has shown that Irish men have the highest mortality rate from melanoma skin cancer than anywhere in Europe – with more men dying from this disease than women.

Yesterday (Wednesday, August 1), the cancer foundation launched the latest phase of its ‘Skin C(h)ancer’ campaign.

It is aimed at Irish men who work or spend a lot of time outdoors – particularly sportsmen, farmers and gardeners.

The foundation was driven to run this campaign given the fact the incidence of melanoma skin cancer has more than tripled in the two decades, from 1994 to 2014.

Image source: The Marie Keating Foundation

Speaking at the campaign launch, the CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation and malignant melanoma survivor – Liz Yeates – said: “530 cases of melanoma are diagnosed in Irish men each year, resulting in 88 deaths annually.

We’ve launched this campaign to give Irish men a wake-up call and encourage them to take their skin’s health seriously.

The foundation is urging people to: wear sunscreen; seek shade; cover up; wear sunglasses; never use sunbeds; and to check their skin.

Visible signs

Meanwhile, Helen Forristal – director of Nursing Services at the Marie Keating Foundation – noted that the foundation’s research has shown that 20% of Irish men are not aware of the visible signs of skin cancer.

This is a worrying fact, as skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer if you are careful, she added.

You need to be vigilant by knowing your skin type and checking your skin on a regular basis. Look out for any changes in moles or freckles.

“If you notice a change in colour, size or shape, bleeding, crusting or itching, visit your GP as soon as you can – because when melanoma is caught early, it can be treated and the response to treatment can be very effective.”

‘Aware of the dangers’

Having grown up on the family farm and working as a Garda since 1998, Eddie Brennan – a former Kilkenny hurler and Marie Keating ambassador – would have spent much of his time outside.

Commenting on the campaign, he said: “I would never really have been aware of the dangers or thought much about the harm I was doing to my skin.

This campaign has made me think back and realise that for years I was out in the sun, whether it was farming; on the mountain bike; on the beat; or even on the hurling pitch, completely exposed.

Small changes like wearing sunscreen, a hat and staying in the shade where possible will make a big difference and hopefully this campaign will get through with its message,” he concluded.