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Care in the sun

The sun can have a damaging effect on our skin and health, whether we are at home or on holiday.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Northern Ireland, accounting for more than 31 percent of all cancers here.

31 percent of all cancers in Northern Ireland are skin cancer

Staying safe in the sun

Adults and children need to stay safe in the sun all year round. However, it is particularly important during the summer months between 11am and 3pm each day.

You can take a number of simple steps to help protect against the sun’s harmful rays:

If you are confused about what SPF to use for your skin type, try this sun protection factor calculator.

Skin type guide

Useful links

Care in the sun website
Looking after yourself in hot weather
Stay safe in the sun – easy read leaflet

  • Sunburn

    If your skin has gone red in the sun, it has been burned. Sunburn does not have to be raw, peeling or blistering.

    Sunburn is an outward sign of ultraviolet damage to the skin and can lead to skin cancers.

    You do not have to be sunbathing to get sunburned. Most cases of sunburn happen when people are doing an activity such as:

    • gardening
    • outdoor sports
    • working outdoors
    • walking
    • cycling


    Follow these tips on how to enjoy the sun safely.

  • Skin cancer risk factors

    There are many factors that increase the risk of skin cancer.

    Melanoma risk factors
    • Lots of moles (50 or more) or unusual moles (large, different colour or irregular border).
    • Melanoma rates are higher in older people, although 10 percent of cases are in people aged under 35. There are more than 100 cases diagnosed in Northern Ireland each year in people aged over 70.
    • A personal or family history of melanoma skin cancer.
    • Dark skinned people can still develop melanoma, usually on the soles of their feet or palms of their hands.
    Non-melanoma risk factors
    • Lots of moles (50 or more) or unusual moles (large, different colour or irregular border).
    • Chemical exposure, including creosote, tar, soot and petroleum extracts.
    • Previous skin damage, for example severe burns to the skin or a history of ulcers.
    • Radiation, including radiation exposure as part of cancer treatment.
    • Solar keratoses or sun spots.
    • A personal or family history of skin cancer.
    • History of severe sunburn, especially in childhood.
    • Reduced immunity, for example due to an organ transplant.
    • Pale skin – the paler your skin, the greater the risk.
    • Men are at greater risk than women.
    • The risk increases when you are aged over 50.
    • Albinism increases the risk.
  • Detecting skin cancer

    Early detection of skin cancer is very important so you should check your skin about once a month. You should get someone to help check your back.

    Get to know your skin and look out for any changes. If you notice any moles or patches of normal skin that have changed in size and colour, check it out with your GP.

    The ABCD rule can help guide you:

    • Asymmetry – the two halves of a melanoma may not look the same.
    • Border – the edges of a melanoma are often jagged or irregular.
    • Colour – a melanoma may be several different shades at once.
    • Diameter – this is usually at least six millimetres.