Calls for skin cancer awareness campaign to slash £17m annual treatment cost and save lives

Skin cancer makes up a third of all cancers in Northern Ireland and 4,000 cases of it are reported each year, despite an estimated half of all cases being preventable.

The cost of treating this in financial terms is £17million per year, but the cost to the people receiving the news they have a cancerous growth is so high too.

We know to wear SPF and to stay out of the sun on the rare roasting days in our Northern Irish summers.

However, it seems that there are still many misconceptions which, if corrected, could save millions of pounds, and save patients from going through treatment that can be long, painful and traumatising.

One misconception which survivor Jennifer Parkinson can correct, is that all and any cases of skin cancer can just be chopped off.

The Castlereagh mum-of-three, an environmental health officer, had recurrent malignant melanoma.

Far from just being "cut off" to cure her, she had a mole removed in 2014, a mastectomy little over a year later, she has gone through immunotherapy which meant a long-list of serious side effects, and this was coupled with the psychological scars of the trauma of not knowing if she would live or die.

Fair skinned, she admits she wishes she knew more about the dangers of sunbathing when she was on holidays decades ago, and hopes more people realise the dangers of the "taps aff" mentality when the sun comes out here.

Dr Ethna McFerran carried out the Cancer Focus backed research into the economics of treating skin cancer in Northern Ireland.

Cases of melanoma in NI are already sky-high, with an estimated 11 cases diagnosed every day.

The numbers are predicted to rise by 28 per cent by 2040, but there are calls for investment in a public health awareness campaigns to change the trajectory of those figures.

The research into the economic implications of treating skin cancer came after a recommendation in the Mid-Term Review of the Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy and Action Plan in 2017. 

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "The work concludes that in the region of £17m is spent each year on skin cancer management costs (the exact figure depends on the diagnostic referral assumptions).

"The Department welcomes the publication of this research paper. Skin cancer amounts to over one third of all cancers in Northern Ireland and result in significant cost to our health service along with the human cost to patients and their families.

"The Department intend to take forward a review of the current Strategy and the findings of this research will play an important part in that exercise and in determining our future strategic approach."

Cancer Focus CEO RIchard Spratt said it is important to remember that each number in the statistics is a suffering person.

“While our focus today is on monetary costs, it is important to remember that real people’s lives are at the centre of this research," he said.

"We all know that the cost for each patient with a skin cancer diagnosis is much, much greater than pounds and pence.”

You can learn more about staying safe in the sun here -, while more information about Cancer Focus can be found here -

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