LISBURN woman Kirsty Thompson has spoken of the importance of early detection to prevent skin cancer after she was disagnosed with a malignant melanoma.
Kirsty (37), from Saintfield Road, was in her early 20’s when she discovered a strange looking mole which she instinctively knew was not right.
“It wasn’t overly big but it was different from other moles - it was red around the outside – and made me feel that something wasn’t right,” she said.
“I went to see my doctor who removed it. It was confirmed as malignant melanoma in situ – so although it was cancerous, it was confined to the immediate area.
“I had further surgery to remove the area around the mole as a precautionary measure, and had regular check-ups to ensure the cancer had not returned.”
Kirsty said that she was shocked that something like this could happen to someone so young.
“I loved the sun and also occasionally used sun-beds – but I never thought I would be diagnosed with skin cancer – I was shocked this could happen to someone in their early 20s,” she said.
“I was incredibly fortunate that it was diagnosed so quickly and was treatable. I still enjoy the sun but would never dream of getting burnt or going out without sunscreen, and I stay in the shade in the hottest part of the day. A holiday is no longer about coming home with a tan.”
The Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF) has launched its 2011 Care in the Sun campaign to raise awareness of sun protection after Northern Ireland basked in the hottest April since 1974.
The latest figures reveal that a total of 175 people here attended hospital A&E units with sunburn in 2008/09, up 33 on the previous year. The statistics also show that 42 of the 175 patients who presented at A&E with sunburn were aged 16 and under.
Naomi Thompson, UCF Senior Cancer Prevention Officer and a member of the NI Melanoma Strategy Implementation Group, said: “People need to remember that although April was one of the warmest on record in Northern Ireland, the sun’s rays are even stronger from May to September.
“Research by UCF shows that 8 out of 10 people do not apply sunscreen at home unless they are ‘actively’ sunbathing. Our message is that you don’t need to be sunbathing to get skin cancer - rather it is over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) which can cause serious damage over time. It is important for everyone to avoid getting sunburned, particularly children.
“As well as skin cancer UVR also causes skin damage, aging, wrinkling, and eye damage, so it is vital that we take the necessary measures to protect ourselves to safely enjoy sport, outdoor work and other outdoor activities - even here in Northern Ireland.
“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Northern Ireland and accounts for 28% of all cancers diagnosed. Around 2,500 people develop it each year.”
In 2008, almost 300 people in Northern Ireland were diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer - 136 men and 161 women. In 2009, 18 men and 27 women died as a result of malignant melanoma.
If you are concerned about skin cancer you can also call UCF’s free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the nurses on firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirsty added: “If you have any concerns about any moles see your doctor straight away. Early detection was the key to my recovery – others aren’t so lucky!”