Knowing what puts you at risk of skin cancer is important in preventing it and detecting it early. Because of New Zealand’s high rates of skin cancer, it is also important to regularly check your skin for unusual moles or spots and seek expert advice, particularly if you have any concerns. It’s definitely time to make a Mole Screen appointment if you notice a mole, spot, or skin lesion has suddenly appeared, is changing, or is causing discomfort.

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Every year, about 82,000 Kiwis are diagnosed with skin cancer, including melanoma.
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Skin cancer makes up 80% of new cancer diagnoses in Aotearoa.
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At least six people are diagnosed with melanoma every day in New Zealand.
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People aged 50+ made up 85% of melanoma diagnoses in 2015.
Statistics from the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

Risk factors

There are many different factors that can increase your risk of skin cancer. These include your gender; age; skin colour; eye/hair colour; the number and types of moles on your body; whether your family has a history of skin cancer; if you have been diagnosed with skin cancer previously; and your level of exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

New Zealanders in their 40s, 50s and 60s generally have a higher risk of developing skin cancer, as they grew up in an era when sun protection wasn’t as valued as it is today. Many have also never had their moles checked. People aged 60 plus are at particularly high risk of squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell skin cancers.

Some medications that suppress the immune system can increase people’s risk of skin cancers such as melanoma, basal and squamous cell cancers. Ask your doctor if this applies to you, and if so, book for an annual mole check with Mole Screen.

Age

People aged 40 years and over are at higher risk of having skin cancer.

Gender

Men have a greater risk of dying from skin cancer than women.

UV Exposure

High levels of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun increase the risk of skin cancer. New Zealand’s UV levels are among the highest in the world.

Types of skin cancer

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells and is usually diagnosed as either melanoma or non-melanoma. New Zealand has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world with at least 82,000 Kiwis being diagnosed each year. The most common forms of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

Basal Cell

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It is characterised by spontaneous bleeding or ulceration; being skin-coloured, pigmented or pink; and being slow growing. The best way to prevent BCC is by avoiding sunburn when you are young. It is very rarely life threatening but it is important for people who have had a basal cell carcinoma to receive regular skin checks, as they are at increased risk of other skin cancers, including melanoma.

Melanoma

Melanoma typically looks like an unusual freckle or mole and can be quite small in size at first. It can occur anywhere on the body and is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If it is not treated, it can spread quickly to other parts of your body so early melanoma detection is very important. New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of melanoma in the world.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) develops from the same outer layer of skin that makes keratin – the protein that makes skin, hair and nails. These skin cancers can appear as raised and crusty looking sores that don’t heal properly. SCC is the second most common skin cancer and while it is not usually life threatening it can be invasive if left untreated.

Immunosuppressed People

People taking medication that suppresses their immune system, and others who have medical conditions such as HIV or an immune deficiency syndrome, have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. If you are younger than 40 and have a suppressed immune system, we advise having your skin checked at least every 12 months. Limiting your exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is essential and even on cloudy days it is important to wear sunscreen and adequate sun-protective clothing when outdoors.

Are you worried about a mole or skin blemish?

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