Press release

Protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer by being SunSmart

Published: 24 May 2024

The annual SunSmart campaign to remind people, whether at home or abroad, of the simple ways they can enjoy the sun safely while protecting their skin from the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) radiation is officially underway. The HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) and Healthy Ireland encourages all to enjoy the good weather and be #SunSmart to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.

We sometimes think Irish sun “isn’t real sun”, but skin cancer is our most common type of cancer in Ireland today, with over 11,000 cases diagnosed annually. This number is projected to more than double by 2045. Yet in most cases, skin cancers could be prevented by protecting skin from the sun’s UV rays and not using sunbeds.

It’s vital to protect skin when outdoors in Ireland, especially from April to September when UV rays from the sun are at their strongest. Even on cooler, cloudy days UV radiation levels can be high enough to damage skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.

The SunSmart campaign aims to get us into the habit of protecting our skin every day, whatever the weather. People often think it is the sun’s heat that causes skin cancer, but in fact it is UV rays from the sun which cannot be seen or felt that cause the damage. To increase awareness of how to be SunSmart, whether at home or abroad, the HSE and Healthy Ireland will launch the SunSmart radio campaign this weekend (24 May 2024).

Colm Burke, Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy says:

“The Healthy Ireland SunSmart campaign aims to encourage everyone to take action to enjoy the sun safely and reduce their risk of skin cancer. We want everyone to know they can reduce their skin cancer risk by following the simple Healthy Ireland SunSmart steps. We know getting outside is so important for our overall physical and mental wellbeing but we must take the time to protect our skin and our family’s skin. By making SunSmart behaviours part of our normal routine we are laying a strong foundation for a healthier future.”

Being SunSmart is a simple and effective way of reducing your risk of developing skin cancer. Protect your skin by follow the SunSmart steps:

  • Slip on clothing that covers your skin such as, long sleeves and collared t-shirts.
  • Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen, SPF minimum 30+ for adults and 50+ for children which has high UVA protection and is water-resistant. Re-apply regularly.
  • Slap on a wide brimmed hat.
  • Seek shade – Sit in the cover of trees to avoid direct sunlight. Use a sunshade on your buggy or pram. Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight.
  • Slide on sunglasses with UV protection.

And remember, do not deliberately try to get a suntan. Avoid getting a sunburn. Never use a sunbed.

Deirdre Bonass, patient advocate for the SunSmart campaign is raising awareness of the importance of skin protection:

“I was first diagnosed with skin cancer on my face in 2018 which was treated with surgery. However in January 2022, then-55 years old, I was diagnosed again as I had more spots on my face and now my back and chest too. I was put on chemotherapy topical cream and the doctor explained this was a very intense 4 to 6 weeks of treatment. It was quite horrendous to look at and extremely painful. I was never a sun worshipper but always out in the garden, so I definitely didn't put enough sunscreen on or wear a hat. I am now advocating about the importance of protecting skin from sun damage while outdoors by following the Healthy Ireland SunSmart 5 S’s.”

Dr Breeda Neville, Specialist in Public Health Medicine in the HSE NCCP says:

“Whether you are on a staycation in Ireland or travelling abroad this summer, it’s important to remember to protect your skin. From April to September, even on cloudy days, ultraviolet radiation levels in Ireland are often high enough to damage skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. Avoid getting caught out by checking the UV index on the Met Éireann website or app. If it’s 3 or above it’s important to protect skin by covering up, seeking shade and regularly applying sunscreen.”


For more information and to learn how to protect yourself and your family this summer visit the SunSmart hub at and check out #SunSmart on social media.

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