We are slowly becoming more aware of melanoma and its deadly effects, but there’s still much to learn. New Zealand has the highest incidence rate of melanoma in the world. Over 4,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with the skin cancer each year, and around 300 of those people sadly die.
We must educate ourselves to raise awareness of melanoma. Here are some facts:
It’s the third most common registered cancer in NZ men and fourth most common cancer in NZ women.
Half of melanomas are first found by the person themselves.
Most are caused by UV exposure — sun light related or sun bed related.
Usually melanoma appears after the age of 50, however younger people can also be affected.
Melanoma can also be caused by a genetic fault in our melanocytes, causing them to change to malignant cells. These cancers are usually not related to sun exposure.
We are all at risk, however, here are some indicators for higher risk:
- Light skin colour.
- Red or blond hair.
- Those who burn easily and never tan.
- Those who have evidence of skin damage due to sunburn/sun exposure.
- Those who have previously been diagnosed with melanoma.
- Those with close relatives who have previously been diagnosed with melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer.
If you have ever visit my clinic you may have heard my nurse or myself asking the following questions:
- Have you ever had melanoma before?
- Has any member of your family such as mum, dad brother or sister ever had melanoma before?
- Have you or your family ever had non- melanoma skin cancer?
The above risk factors will put you at a greater risk of having melanoma, and an annual or biannual skin check could save your life. Melanoma caught early is curable.
>> Remember: if a mole BLEEDS, ITCHES or CHANGES, seek medical help IMMEDIATELY.
- DO seek shade.
- DO wear broad brimmed sun hats.
- DO wear clothes to cover up in the sun.
- DO wear sun glasses — our eyes are also at risk of developing melanoma.
- DO wear sun lotion SPF 50.
- DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS.
Words: Dr. Maria Reeves
Dr Maria Reeves
Building 1 Level 1 | Constellation Drive | Rosedale
093204416 | 021377116 | [email protected]