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Melanoma – What you need to know to protect your skin

Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in New Zealand. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, and most melanoma (80–96%) is caused by UV exposure. In 2018, New Zealand had the second highest melanoma incidence and mortality rates in the world, after Australia. In 2015, 378 people died from melanoma in New Zealand. Melanoma mortality rates were higher in males and older age groups, especially in 75+ years.

Risk factors

  • Sunburn at any age increases risk of melanoma in later life
  • There is a greater risk of melanoma with high doses of sun exposure eg. during a holiday and recreational activity with continuous sun exposure
  • One type of melanoma tends to occur on the soles of the feet, palms of the hand and under the nails in those with darker skins
  • Family or personal history of skin cancer
  • Fair skin
  • Red, blonde or fair hair
  • Skin type that burns easily
  • Skin damage due to sunburn
  • Sunbed use
  • Many moles or larger moles

What do you need to look out for? 

The A.B.C.D.E. rule is a simple guide to recognising the early signs of superficial spreading melanoma. Look out for the following:
Asymmetry – The shape of one half does not match the other.
Border – The edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
Colour – The colour is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.
Diameter – Size changes and usually increases. Typically, melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter (the diameter of a pencil).
Evolving – look for new moles or changes to any moles.

Protect your skin against UV radiation by:

  • Slip on a long sleeved, collared shirt
  • Slip into the shade
  • Slop on sunscreen that is at least SPF30, broad spectrum and water resistant
  • Slap on a broad brimmed hat that shades
    the face, neck and ears
  • Wrap on close fitting sunglasses
  • Avoid sunburn through the use of sunscreen
  • Protect your skin during the time of the day when UV radiation is highest. This is between 10am and 4pm during daylight saving months
  • Don’t use a sunbed

About Eve Williams

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Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.