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Expert Warns Skin Cancer Alive And Well During Winter

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

One of New Zealand's leading skin cancer surgeons says Kiwis are at risk of developing skin cancer by not having their moles checked year round.

Mr Isaac Cranshaw, a skin cancer specialist, says New Zealanders are risking their lives by not being vigilant about mole checks during winter.

Skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in New Zealand, affects around 60,000 Kiwis a year with around 250 dying from the disease annually.

Mr Cranshaw says while many New Zealanders do adhere to the sun-smart message during summer, they forget about skin protection and mole checks during the colder months.

"It tends to be out of sight out of mind. People need to be aware that skin cancers don't happen overnight rather, they are a build-up of years of UV radiation exposure. Skin damage suffered one summer may take months or years to show up so mole checks need to be done regularly."

A recent survey* conducted by the Skin Institute showed that half of the respondents (52%) had never had a mole checked, yet nearly a quarter (24%) of New Zealanders have had a mole removed because of concerns about skin cancer."

Mr Cranshaw says this is simply not good enough.

"I'm surprised that after 20 years of sun education and free spot checking services people aren't getting themselves checked."

Mr Cranshaw says it is essential for Kiwis to wear sunscreen during winter, especially on bright days and if out in the snow as it reflects sunlight.

He also says that catching skin irregularities or changes in moles in the early stages are the best chance of cure.

"As a medical professional there is no easy way to tell someone they are going to die from something as preventable as skin cancer and patients are often angry with themselves for being so cavalier with their health. The good news is that nearly all skin cancers can be cured if detected early enough - that's why it's important to watch your skin all year round."

The study also showed that nearly a third of New Zealanders have been exposed to irreversible sun damage, with 32% of those surveyed indicating they have been burnt to the point of their skin peeling once or more in the past 12 months. That figure rose to 37% for male respondents.

Mr Cranshaw recommends using sunscreen, covering up and most importantly keeping out of the sun between the hours of 10-4pm.

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