One in four skin cancer deaths are from the construction and farming sector

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The Irish Cancer Society has said that almost one in four (23%) of skin cancer deaths in Ireland are from the construction, outdoor and farming industry.

As it launched its annual SunSmart campaign, the society said that Irish farmers and construction workers need to be extra vigilant during the summer months.

These figures from the CSO show that in 2014, we had around one death every week in Ireland that is related to sun exposure at work. Coupled with the research from the UK, it shows just how extensive, and unfortunately fatal, sun damage can be for outdoor workers.

Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager, Irish Cancer Society

It also pointed to UK research which emerged recently showing that working in the sun could lead to one death and around five melanoma cases a week.

The report, published in the British Journal of Cancer said that construction workers diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer had the highest number of deaths (4 in 10), followed by agriculture workers (over 2 in 10).

The society has teamed up with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) to urge all outdoor workers to protect their skin and reduce their risk of skin cancer.

Launching the campaign, Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager with the Irish Cancer Society, said: “These figures from the CSO show that in 2014, we had around one death every week in Ireland that is related to sun exposure at work. Coupled with the research from the UK, it shows just how extensive, and unfortunately fatal, sun damage can be for outdoor workers.

“It’s vital that we pay heed to this in Ireland this summer. You don’t have to be in a Mediterranean country for the sun to do damage to your skin and Irish people need to wise up to that. It would be really useful if work places whose employees work predominately outdoors did a risk assessment and put in place policy in relation to protection from sun exposure.

“Every year in Ireland, over 10,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer, and recent figures show that more men than women were diagnosed, with 5,979 men receiving a diagnosis in 2013 compared with 4,796 women. Whether it’s sunny or cloudy, everyone should protect their skin and this summer, we can asking people to follow our SunSmart Code for best protection.”

IFA President Joe Healy said: “We are delighted to support this campaign once again this year as we see the importance of this advice for our members. Farmers are outdoors from sunrise to sunset, and very often have no protection on their skin so are very vulnerable to skin cancer. We want to encourage farmers to reduce their risk of sun damage by organising their day so that they are in the shade between 11am and 3pm and checking their skin regularly for changes.”

Tom Parlon, Director General of the CIF, said: “The research from the UK is a very clear indication that we need to take skin protection on building sites very seriously. Our members work in all weathers and trades like bricklayers and labourers spend a huge amount of time in direct sunlight. This is our first year partnering with the Irish Cancer Society’s campaign and we are determined to do all we can to spread the SunSmart message among our members. It’s too serious not to.”

Both organisations have produced a leaflet for their respective members on how to be safe in the sun and how to reduce their risk of skin cancer. The leaflets will be distributed to farming and construction families and at trade events throughout the summer.

For more information on skin cancer or how to be SunSmart, visit www.cancer.ie/Sunsmart

To speak to a cancer nurse on any aspect of cancer contact the Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, email cancernurseline@irishcancer.ie or drop into one of 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide. For information on Daffodil Centre locations and opening times email daffodilcentreinfo@irishcancer.ie.