Skin cancer levels have shown a significant increase in Northern Ireland since the early 1990s and are more likely to affect men, older people and those living in more affluent areas, according to a study just published in the June issue of British Journal of Dermatology.
Researchers who looked at official cancer statistics for nearly 23,000 patients over a 12-year period, reported a 20 per cent increase in patients and a 62 per cent increase in skin cancer samples processed by pathology laboratories.
The figures also showed that the three most common skin cancers - basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma - accounted for 27 per cent of all male cancers and 26 per cent of all female cancers.
These findings show that many patients will have more than one skin cancer, highlighting the need to analyse both patient numbers and sample numbers to provide an accurate picture of cancer levels says co-author Dr Susannah Hoey from the Dermatology Department at the Royal Victoria Hospital, part of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
The three skin cancers we looked at all increased with age, with the exception of malignant melanomas, which showed a decrease in men aged 75 and over.
And there was a link between more patients living in wealthier areas and increased levels of malignant melanomas and basal cell carcinomas.
The team looked at data collected by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, at Queens University Belfast, from 1993 to 2004, analysing the records of patients diagnosed with the three most common skin cancers.
They found that men were 30 per cent more likely to suffer from basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, which affected some 1,444 people a year in Northern Ireland during the study period and accounted for 17 per cent of all reported cancers.