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Skin Cancer Risk Ignored By The Young

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Skin Cancer Risk Ignored By The Young

The sun smart message is slowly getting through - but the dangers of sunbeds continue to be ignored by young New Zealanders, according to new research by the not-for-profit Southern Cross Health Society.

A survey of 1000 Southern Cross Health Society members revealed that 33% of those aged 21-29 had used a sunbed in the past. Of those, 27% would consider using one again and 3% were regular users. Although 36% of respondents in the 30-54 age group had used a sunbed in the past, only 14% of these people would consider doing so again.

Southern Cross Healthcare Group CEO Dr Ian McPherson said it appeared some young New Zealanders were either not aware of, or choosing to ignore, the dangers of sunbed use.

"The International Agency for Research on Cancer has calculated there is a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma for those who first use sunbeds in their teens or twenties. Melanoma is a highly aggressive cancer that can strike at any age."

Young New Zealanders are also increasing their risk of skin cancer by allowing themselves to burn in the sun. 89% of those aged 21-29 reported sunburn over the last year, compared to 73% of those aged 30-54, 49% of those aged 55-64 and just 27% of those aged 65 and over.

Dr McPherson said though we all know excessive sun exposure is incredibly bad for your skin the survey indicated a tan remained desirable for the young and for females in particular. Fortunately, many were also turning to safer tanning options, with 45% of under 30s and 47% of women reporting use of artificial tanning products.

Encouragingly, it seems the majority of New Zealanders are also acting on the message to check their skin regularly for signs of changes that may indicate skin cancer. 34% said they checked their skin once every three months and another 32% said they checked at least once every six months or once a year. However, 23% of those aged 21-29 and 17% of those aged 30-54 said they never checked their skin.

Sun smart behaviour is also practised by the majority, with 38% of those surveyed applying sunscreen daily, and a further 53% applying it when they planned to be in the sun for prolonged periods. Sunbathing was also shunned, with 74% saying they did not sunbathe while on holiday.

The removal of skin lesions is Southern Cross Health Society's most commonly claimed for elective surgical procedure. In the year to 30 June 2010, the Society funded or part-funded nearly 31,000 skin surgeries for its 840,000 members at a total cost of over $34 million.

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