Spring is nearly here and with summer approaching fast, it is timely to think about increasing skin cancer rates in New Zealand which are some of the highest in the world.

Our best defences are sun protection and early detection.

Sun-safe behaviour helps to minimise the damaging effects of UV and reduce our risk.

Skin cancer is curable if identified early. Self-examination increases the chance of recognising a new or changing mole or growth. Examinations by a Dermatologist permit timely treatment and improve the outcome.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the commonest skin cancer. Many present as spot or sore that may bleed. Fortunately, BCC rarely spreads, but if not treated completely, recurrences can be extensive and disfiguring.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) usually presents as a rapidly growing, tender scaly lump. SCC may spread to lymph glands, however, with early treatment, the risk is small.

Melanoma is deadly and only early detection and prompt surgical treatment can offer complete cure. The 'classical' melanoma is a new or changing mole with an irregular outline and mixture of different brown and black colours. However, some of the most aggressive melanomas can be a rapidly growing skin coloured or bleeding growth.

Dermatologists are medical doctors with extensive training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of all skin cancers. They have the clinical skills and technology to detect and appropriately treat skin cancers at the earliest possible stage. If you have any concerns about your skin, or would just like the peace of mind of a thorough skin examination, see a Dermatologist.

By Dr Neil Mortimer BSc Hons MBChB FRCP (UK) FRACP FACMS