Be "sun smart" this summer

After a wet and windy spring, we're all excited to finally see the arrival of summer and some warm sunshine!

However with summer comes the familiar, but all too important message of being "sun smart".

New Zealand has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, with rates four times the global average [Source]. So to encourage us all to be aware of the signs and detect melanoma as early as possible, Melanoma New Zealand is on a mission to try and prevent unnecessary deaths.

The "Become a Melanoma Lifesaver" campaign ran in November, focusing on early detection.

"Early detection is crucial in this fight, as if left untreated melanoma can spread rapidly to other parts of the body" says Chief Executive of Melanoma New Zealand, Linda Flay.

"Checking your skin regularly for any changes should be a monthly task. Make sure that you can spot any differences and get it checked by your doctor before it is too late. Look out for any changes, such as size, colour, shape, elevation or a mole that looks very different from others on your body – always follow the 'ugly duckling' rule."

More than 4,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year in New Zealand – around 11 Kiwis a day – and it’s the third most common cancer in New Zealand [Source].

Linda explains: "Over 300 people in New Zealand lose their lives every year from melanoma, and for something that is highly preventable these are very sad statistics. The good news is that catching it early can lead to earlier and more effective treatment."

The risk of developing melanoma increases with age, but there are also other factors that affect our own personal risk. These include:

  • 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 and larger moles

Of course the most known risk with regards to skin cancer is exposure to the sun. Linda advises always protecting your skin over the warmer months of September to April, particularly between 10am and 4pm, or when the ultraviolet (UV) index is 3 or higher.

To find out the day’s UV index, there are three sources of information available:

Linda has one simple message for all Kiwis: "Keep safe this summer."

For more information about Melanoma New Zealand and the "Melanoma Life Saver" campaign, or if you want to know more about and how to get involved, visit