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‘These figures show that we had around one death every week in Ireland related to sun exposure at work’ – Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager with the Irish Cancer Society

Almost one in four (23 per cent) of skin cancer deaths in Ireland are from the construction, outdoor and farming industry, according to latest figures from The Irish Cancer Society.

Launching its annual SunSmart campaign ahead of the summer months, the Society warned Irish farmers and construction workers to be extra vigilant during the summer months.

Recently published UK research has shown that working in the sun could be leading to one death and around five melanoma cases each 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 (four in 10), followed by agriculture workers (over two in 10).

The Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) have come together in an effort 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.

Over 10,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Ireland every year in a trend that tends to affect more men than women; 5,979 men receiving a diagnosis in 2013 compared with 4,796 women.

IFA President Joe Healy said: “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 added: “The research from the UK is a very clear indication that we need to take skin protection on building sites very seriously”.  Both organisations have produced a leaflet for their respective members on sun safety and how to reduce their risk of skin cancer, which will be distributed to farming and construction families and at trade events throughout the summer.