Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in New Zealand. It’s particularly dangerous as it can spread quickly and be life-threatening if left untreated.
Most melanoma is caused by exposure to UV radiation in sunlight. Prolonged sun exposure and sunburn in childhood, or the use of sunbeds, can mean a greater risk of melanoma in adult life. Melanoma develops from skin cells called melanocytes found in the deeper layers of the skin. These cells produce melanin, which protects our skin by absorbing harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
- New Zealand and Australia have the highest rate of melanoma in the world.
- Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in New Zealand.
- People with fairer skin have a higher risk of getting melanoma.
- Earlier identification of a melanoma can lead to earlier and more effective treatment.
- Melanomas can occur anywhere but the most common sites are the lower legs for women and the upper back for men.
If melanoma is found early, there’s a higher chance of effective treatment and recovery. Learn how to check your skin and do so regularly. And if you’re concerned about any changes you notice, get a thorough skin check straight away with your GP or a reputable skin check service such as MoleMap.
If a melanoma is detected, a biopsy may be performed, where the suspected area is removed and examined. Further treatment can include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy if needed.
How can you reduce your risk?
- Avoid sunburn and protect your skin with wide-brimmed hats, loose clothing, sunglasses and a broad spectrum sunscreen.
- Stay out of the harshest sunlight between 11am and 4pm during summer.
- Avoid using sunbeds.
How to check your skin
- Check your entire body, even the parts that aren’t exposed to the sun regularly.
- Use a hand-held mirror to check all areas and get to know your skin, freckles and moles.
- Look for new spots or existing spots, freckles or moles that have changed in colour, shape or size.
- If you find any unusual skin changes, see your GP or book an appointment with MoleMap. Remember, early detection is your best protection.
For more about how to check your skin regularly, check out this helpful guide.