NZ has the highest rate of skin cancer in the WORLD. That's pretty scary.
Here are some cold hard facts to get your attention:
- Melanoma is the third most common cancer in men and women in New Zealand
- 6,000 melanomas are diagnosed in New Zealand every year
- Melanoma accounts for nearly 80% of all skin cancer deaths
- Over 300 Kiwis die of melanoma every year
- Around 70% of melanoma cases occur in people aged 50 years and older
- Darker-skinned people may have a lower chance of getting melanoma, but they often have thicker, more serious melanomas
- Melanoma rarely occurs in children
- Death rates are higher among men and appear to be increasing
(These stats were taken from Melanoma.org.nz)
All skin cancers are serious, we all know that.
But Melanoma is the biggest and baddest of them all. When found early, they are usually treatable but leave them too long and they can be terminal. That's why we are so keen to share as much as we can with you about how to check your skin for warning signs regularly.
The first thing to look for is changes in your skin, or moles that have changed size, shape or colour. If you notice any changes, get a proper check booked in quick smart.
Just because you have a mole, doesn't mean it's a cause for concern. If it's always been there and hasn't changed then it's unlikely to be a danger. But new moles, or moles that change over time - While they may still be nothing, get them checked to be safe. The more moles you have, the higher your risk, so be vigilant!
Mole Map NZ have a great way of learning how to monitor your moles. Just remember ABCDE!
The A.B.C.D.E. rule is a simple guide to checking for the early signs of melanoma. Look out for the following:
Asymmetry – The shape of one half does not match the other.
Border – The edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
Colour – The colour is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.
Diameter – Size changes and usually increases. Typically, melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter (the diameter of a pencil).
Evolving – look for new moles or changes to any moles.
Who is most at risk?
Let's be honest, living in New Zealand, we're all at risk, but the people who are most at risk are:
- Previous history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
- Fair skin that burns easily
- Red, blonde or fair hair
- Skin damage due to sunburn
- Sunbed use (more than 10 sessions)
- Many moles or large moles (50+)
- High doses of sun exposure e.g. during a holiday and recreational activity with continuous sun exposure
- Being over 50 years old
- Immuno-suppression and use of certain medication
We really can't stress enough the importance of closely monitoring your skin and getting any changes checked by a professional. Outside of getting your moles checked, the best thing you can do is to work on prevention. You know the drill: Ensure you are always wearing a 30+ sunscreen, every day, even if it's not sunny. Cover up! Hats and long sleeves where you can. Make the most of the shade.
Do all these things, as well as being vigilant about getting the regular checks, and you will be in the best possible position to keep yourself safe.