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Brother's skin cancer death led to campaign

June 22nd, 2018 7:15 AM

By Emma Connolly

The Warren beach in Rosscarbery during the recent fine spell: Senator Lombard says the recent spate of good weather puts the emphasis back on the importance of sun screen. (Photo: Andrew Harris)

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Senator Tim Lombard’s brother Ger died of skin cancer at the young age of 37. Now the Minane Bridge man wants the VAT removed on sun screen, to help make us all safer from the sun

 

THE death of his 37-year-old brother from skin cancer has made Cork South West Senator Tim Lombard very much aware of the devastating illness. 

That’s why, with the backing of his family, he’s launched a campaign to have what he is calling the ‘excessive’ 23% VAT removed from sun screen to make the life-saving lotion more affordable.

Tim, from Minane Bridge, remembers his brother’s death in October 2009 after he battled the disease over what he called ‘five tough years’.

‘It was hard on all the family, especially our mother, and it has made us very much aware of things like changes in moles and the importance of sun screen.’

Ger, the second eldest of five Lombard siblings, worked in Novartis in Ringaskiddy and noticed a change in a mole in his right arm. He had it removed and over the following five years, he underwent radium treatment and a lot of chemotherapy, which saw the cancer go away, but then come back. 

‘He fought a good fight and showed great character, but in the end it became a malignant melanoma and had spread to his bones,’ said Tim, who was Ger’s younger brother.

Tim, who had moles removed himself last year, said he was embarking on this campaign – both to make sun screen more affordable  and to raise awareness of its necessity – in memory of Ger. 

He said he realised he was in a ‘privileged position’ to make a difference and having spoken to the family, his two brothers and one sister, and his mother, agreed to the campaign, as skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland.

‘I’ve thought about this for a long time and it just doesn’t make sense to have the luxury VAT rate on something that saves lives. I am only too conscious of what this disease can do, and its ability to take and ruin lives,’ the father-of-four said. 

‘I’ve spent a few months researching this and looked at VAT on all other products and am highlighting that oral medications like Calpol and Nurofen are all at 0% VAT but that sun screen is classed as a  luxury product and has the 23% rate. The logic is that it, too, should be at 0%.’

Pointing out that the younger generation are more educated on the value of sunscreen, he said it was his generation, people in their 40s, that needed to improve their habits while in the sun. 

‘Time does move on, but during the recent beautiful days we’ve been having it’s something I’ve been very conscious of – the damage you can do by not covering up. There’s a huge campaign around this in Australia – something similar to the health and safety campaign we have for building sites – we really need to take this to the next level here.’

Tim has spoken to the Health Minister about this proposal and said he’s had a good reaction. 

‘He’s said he’ll look into it and get back to me in three weeks’ time. The Irish Cancer Society has also responded positively.’

Most recent statistics show that in 2015, there were 11,785 cases of skin cancer in Ireland. Of these, 1,118 were melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. 

The ICS have recently predicted an increase of two thirds by 2040 when numbers are expected to rise to 19,000 cases per year and have called for development of a national skin cancer prevention plan. 

As well as hoping to bring about positive change through this campaign, Tim and the family have hosted fundraisers for Cunamh, the cancer support group in the Bon Secours Hospital. 

‘We raised €6,500 through a garden walk for them in my mother’s garden,’ he said. 

Tim added: ‘The statistics are frightening – we need to grasp this issue now and deal with it for future generations. Like I said, the over-40s especially need to change their mentality and take better care of themselves. Irish people can tend to take too much sun when the opportunity arises, but we have to be mindful of moles, any changes in our skin and importantly, act fast. This can be very curable if caught in the early stages – Ger was just one of the unfortunate ones.’

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