New Zealand and Australia undoubtedly have the highest ratesfor both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer in light skinned populations in the world. So what can we do about this? We don't want to move. We love where we live and who would not envy us for living in the Bay of Plenty! The main modifiable risk for skin cancer is therefore UV exposure. Research has shown that Melanoma risk is strongly associated with blistering sunburns between 15-20yrs so please look after your children and teenagers! However, no need to get slack in your older days as continued exposure increases your risk for non-melanoma skin cancer such as Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. There is plenty of evidence for regular sunscreen use preventing the development of melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer and photo ageing (wrinkles!!!). However, most of us use a fraction of the recommended amounts of sunscreen and even if used appropriately it does not provide complete protection, shade and protective clothing are still an essential part of being sun smart. Did you know that most burns happen during home based activities such as gardening and not at the beach! There has been controversies regarding safety and efficacy of sunscreen. However, published data has shown sunscreen to protect against skin cancer and not to cause subnormal Vitamin D levels or an association with systemic toxicity in humans. Reassuringly, NZ research has shown that exposure of hands, face and neck for 3 minutes per day in Auckland summer through to about 60 minutes per day in Invercargill winter is sufficient to maintain normal Vitamin D levels. So please continue to slip, slop and slap!
By Dr Sandra Winhoven MRCP (UK)
If you have any concerns about your skin or would like a skin examination (skin check) make an appointment to see a Specialist Dermatologist. For further information please contact the Skin Centre on 0800 SkinCentre (754 623).