New Zealand tops the world in our rates of melanoma and we have the highest melanoma death rates in the world.
The findings, published this year in JAMA Dermatology, showed melanoma rates were highest in New Zealand and Australia (combined) in 2020, followed by Western Europe, North America and Northern Europe. Worse, us Kiwis have the highest death rates from melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
Melanoma is NZ’s third most common cancer for men and women – about 4000 Kiwis are diagnosed annually, and more than 350 die.
And more will yet. NZ has a growing, ageing population of (mainly) Pākehā baby boomers who “baked” in the sun or worked outdoors with little protection in more innocent times. Taking steps to protect yourself from New Zealand’s strong sun is simply the best way to prevent skin cancers developing.
Melanomas are more often found in people aged 50 or older, however younger age groups don’t escape and, like many other preventable illnesses, and is more common in men than women.
Thankfully most melanomas are “highly curable” if caught early – but this requires us to be vigilant about changes in our skin, and getting onto your doctor you spot any changes.