If you live in New Zealand, there’s every chance you’ll know we have high rates of melanoma. You may even be sick of hearing about it. Unfortunately, not everyone’s listening, because our statistics are alarming.
In March 2016, New Zealand was shown to overtake Australia, claiming the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. Even worse, our numbers are on the rise while Australia’s figures have been declining since 2005. We have over 200% more chance of getting melanoma than people in Britain, and the research shows that we are now more likely to die from this disease than we are on our roads. Melanoma is the most common cause of skin cancer deaths worldwide.
So, what can we do about it?
In an ideal world, the “prevention is better than the cure” approach is always the best. If you consider that nearly 90% of melanoma cases can be linked to exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or artificial sources (like indoor tanning beds), this is no exception. Australia’s success has been attributed to a more significant commitment to investment in sun protection and mass media campaigns. New Zealand’s ‘Slip-Slop-Slap’ campaign was very effective and is still highly relevant today, but it’s not enough. We need to actively raise awareness of our growing statistics at home, in schools and our local communities. Melanoma poses a huge threat to our population, and it’s not going away.
Next best step is to find it early.
Our traditional Kiwi attitude of “she’ll be right” can cost lives. Of all the skin cancers, Melanoma is the most prone to rapid spread. It arises from the pigment-producing cells in the skin and your chances of cure are directly related to how deep the melanoma has grown in the skin when diagnosed. The earlier it’s picked up, the higher the chance of cure.
Nothing beats an examination by an expert Specialist, who has the extensive experience needed to detect the often subtle signs of early Melanoma. A yearly check-up may not be enough. Knowing how quickly melanoma can advance, it’s crucial that we keep a vigilant eye out for any changes in our skin. Self-examination is key to early detection and improved outcomes, and it’s not as hard as you might think.
The signs of melanoma follow an easy to remember ABCDE rule:
Asymmetry: The two sides of the mole or growth don’t match each other.
Border: The edges are uneven or ragged, or they blend into the
Colour: There is more than one colour in the spot, which may include brown, black, pink, white, blue, or red.
Diameter: The growth measures more than 0.5 centimetres across — about the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolving: The spot has changed colour, size, or shape.
However, early Melanomas often have subtle features so if you notice anything new or changing on the skin, don’t take risks. Skin Centre’s highly specialised dermatologists have dedicated their professional lives to the prevention, detection and treatment of skin cancer. The team’s combined experience, training and state-of-the-art technology will ensure the best outcome possible.