Melanoma: The current situation in New Zealand

New Zealand has, together with Australia, the highest melanoma incidence in the world. The combination of skin type and UV impact from the sun put the inhibitors of New Zealand at high risk. So let’s take a closer look at the current melanoma situation in NZ.

Melanoma NZ: The facts

According to Melanoma New Zealand, over 4,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma (either melanoma in situ or invasive melanoma) every year in New Zealand. That adds up to around 11 every day, which is quite shocking, of course. Although melanoma is only the fourth common cancer in New Zealand, it accounts for over 80% of all skin cancer-related deaths.

The main risks of melanoma are the same all over the world. Examples are sunbeds (tanning), a history of sunburns in childhood or adolescence, having a lot of (unnatural looking) moles and a family history of melanoma skin cancer cases. But for New Zealand specific, there is also the combination of two other risk factors: a large part of the population has fair skin, and the UV exposure is also high due to the amount of sunshine.

Maori & Pacific people

New Zealand has an interesting mix of inhabitants, with a combination of skin types. And although Maori and Pacific’s people have a lower chance of getting melanoma, they often have thicker, more severe melanomas. This means that for Maori and Pacific people, prevention (and early detection) is just as important as to any kiwi.

Melanoma prevention

Taking a deeper dive into Melanoma NZ shows the risks that people from New Zealand are dealing with. So prevention, next to awareness, is the most important thing. What do you need to know to prevent melanoma?

  • Occasional bursts of high UV, like on holidays when you lie on the beach, are especially harmful. Stay in the shade during the warmest hours of the day.
  • Avoid tanning. Using sunbeds before the age of 35 is associated with a more than 50% increase in the risk of melanoma.
  • Melanoma can also occur on the soles of the feet, palms of the hand and under the nails.
  • Sunburns will increase the risk of developing melanomas at a later stage of your life.

To follow this up, you can use the ABCDE-method for the detection of risky spots. Read our melanoma page to learn everything about melanoma and what to look for. In short, it means that you look out for moles based on specific symptoms.

The ABCDE checklist:

Dermatologists identify melanoma symptoms using the ABCDE method. This method shows you which signs to look out for when examining suspicious moles, spots or growths on your skin.

  • Asymmetrical – Melanomas are distinctly asymmetrical
  • Border – melanomas have uneven borders
  • Colours – melanomas will contain at least two distinct colours
  • Diameter – melanomas are bigger than ¼ inch across
  • Enlargement – melanomas grow in size over time

The evolution of your mole(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and/or size, bring it to the attention of a dermatologist immediately.

Read more: ABCDE Melanoma self check

Reduce your risk

Sun safety, sunscreen and routine skin checks can be the best way to both prevent skin cancer and detect it at an earlier stage when it’s easier to cure and less expensive to treat.

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