‘Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide’ Slogan Tackles Rising Occupational Skin Cancer Incidence in Ireland Head on

In edition 238 of BC Disease News (here), we summarised various active UK initiatives intended to reduce cases of occupational skin cancer by giving instructions on how to implement effective sun strategies and guard outdoor workers against harmful levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure.

These included the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) No Time To Lose (NTTL) campaign; Royal Mail’s ‘Stay Safe in the Sun’ campaign; NHS England’s ‘Cover up Mate’ campaign; and Skcin Charity campaigns.

The Skcin Charity has, for a number of years, endorsed the ‘Five S’s of Sun Safety’:

  1. SLIP on a t-shirt.
  2. SLOP on SPF 30+ broad spectrum UVA sunscreen.
  3. SLAP on a broad brimmed hat.
  4. SLIDE on high quality sunglasses.
  5. SHADE from the sun whenever possible.

In many ways, this resembles the long-running anti-skin cancer campaigns launched in the Australian state of Victoria, which played a key role in the dramatic shift in sun protection attitudes and behaviour.[1] From 1980 to 1988, Cancer Council Victoria ran the ‘Slip! Slop! Slap!’ Programme. This was subsequently replaced by the ‘SunSmart’ programme (1988 to present), which was calculated as having averted more than 43,000 skin cancer cases and 1,400 deaths over the course of 23-years. It was also extremely cost effective, returning $2.20 for every $1.00 spent.[2]

It is perhaps the result of this great success that our closest geographical neighbours, in Ireland, have been running a SunSmart campaign that mirrors the Australian programme, as part of its National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan (which arose from the National Cancer Strategy).

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Ireland, with an estimated average of 13,000 cases diagnosed annually. However, HSE Ireland claims that numbers are rapidly rising. Between 2020 and 2045, it is predicted that melanoma skin cancer incidence will increase by 67% and by 110% for non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC).

Together, the Irish Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), Healthy Ireland (a Government initiative) and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) have recently teamed up to issue an urgent skin cancer warning to outdoor workers (e.g. construction workers, farmers, postal workers, landscapers, etc.), who are exposed to two-to-three-times more solar radiation than those who work in an indoor environment.

Calling for Irish workers to be ’SunSmart’, the ‘Healthy Ireland SunSmart 5 S’s’ offer practical tips for educating outdoor workers and their responsible employers on how to best protect against (but not realistically eliminate) the risk of carcinogenic exposure:

  1. SLIP on clothing that covers your skin such as possible - long sleeves, collared t-shirts.
  2. SLOP on sunscreen: Use sunscreen SPF minimum 30 or higher. Apply 20 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours – more often if sweating.
  3. SLAP on a wide brimmed hat.
  4. SEEK shade - especially if outdoors between 11am to 3pm when UV rays are at their strongest. Plan your work outdoors early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the peak UV sunrays. Use trees or portable shade for break times and lunch.
  5. SLIDE on wraparound sunglasses.[3]

We have previously reported (here) that 90% of all skin cancer deaths can be prevented if proper precautions are adopted. Should the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide’ slogan prove to be as effective in Ireland as in Australia, it would be unsurprising if more nations, including the UK, sought to institutionalise it as the core message of its own public health campaigns.


[1] ‘Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide’ (Cancer Council) <https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety/campaigns-and-events/slip-slop-slap-seek-slide> accessed 5 May 2022.

[2] ‘New study shows SunSmart success as melanomas decrease in Victoria’ (2 April 2018 SunSmart) https://www.sunsmart.com.au/about-sunsmart/media-and-communications/media-releases/2018/new-study-shows-sunsmart-success.html> accessed 5 May 2022.

[3] Aoife Horan, ‘SUN SCARE Urgent skin cancer warning as outdoor workers exposed to THREE times more UV radiation than indoor workers’ (28 April 2022 The Irish Sun) <https://www.thesun.ie/news/8716345/urgent-skin-cancer-warning-outdoor-workers-uv-radiation/> accessed 5 May 2022.

‘Outdoor Workers Urged To Be SunSmart As They Have A Higher Risk Of Developing Skin Cancer’ (28 April 2022 Cork Safety Alerts) <https://corksafetyalerts.com/news/outdoor-workers-urged-to-be-sunsmart-as-they-have-a-higher-risk-of-developing-skin-cancer/> accessed 5 May 2022.