First cancer Atlas of Ireland reveals skin cancer is huge risk in Republic

Dr Anna Gavin, director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry

Skin cancer is a greater risk in the Republic of Ireland than the North – but those living in Ulster are more likely to develop lung cancer.

The first All-Ireland cancer atlas has been published with the results of a 12 year analysis of 18 different types of cancer.

The authors are hopeful that their findings will provide vital clues as to why people living in certain areas of Ireland face higher-than-average cancer risks.

Dr Anna Gavin, director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, said: “We found that there are higher levels of melanoma and skin cancer in the Republic than in Northern Ireland. The patterns are particularly around the coast and more so in southern than in Northern Ireland.

“There is more lung cancer in Northern Ireland than in the south which probably reflects our historically higher levels of tobacco use.”

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Dr Gavin told the media “Mapping the incidence of cancer geographically in Ireland is hugely important in the quest to understand factors that increase cancer rates and also to provide appropriate treatment and cancer services.

“The launch of the first All-Ireland Cancer Atlas will enable us to further identify different contributing factors to cancer in Ireland.”

The Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen’s University Belfast and the National Cancer Registry in Cork came together to work on the Atlas which shows major variations, sometimes more than two-fold, in the risk of several cancers.

The report states that cancers which are significantly higher risks for both sexes in the Republic are cancers of the skin, pancreas, bladder and brain/central nervous system, as well as leukaemia.

For men, the risk of prostate cancer is higher in the Republic and for women, cancer of the oesophagus and cervix were higher. Lung cancer, however, was higher in the North.

For women in Northern Ireland the risk of developing cancer of the uterus, head and neck, as well as Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was higher.

The atlas also found that some cancers – including lung, stomach, head and neck and cervical cancers - were more common in areas of higher unemployment and/or lower levels of degree attainment across the island.

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