Did you know that each year, many more people die from skin cancer than road accidents in New Zealand? Did you know that 2 out of 3 New Zealanders will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70? Did you know that each year, New Zealanders are four times more likely to develop a skin cancer than any other form of cancer? Yet skin cancer is the most preventable of all cancers. These are the hard facts on skin cancer.

The month of March marked the “March against Melanoma” campaign which aims to create awareness and promote the importance of early detection / prevention against skin cancer and melanoma. This event also provides a supportive network for all those affected by either skin cancer or melanoma.

Melanoma is a serious skin cancer which is due to uncontrolled growth of the pigment cells called melanocytes. Whilst there are many risk factors for melanoma, if you have fair skin and live in New Zealand; you are at exceptionally high risk!

The first sign of a melanoma is usually an unusual appearing freckle or mole. Melanomas can arise in either a pre-existing mole or it can be a new mole. If diagnosed at an early stage, excision of the melanoma is curative. Prevention is your best treatment as > 90% of melanomas are related to sun exposure – so “Slip, Slop, Slap”. Regular skin checks by a dermatologist can greatly assist in detecting melanoma at an early stage.

By Dr. Eugene Tan MBChB FRACP

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