Men ignore sun cancer risks

SHUNNING THE SUN: Do you remember to wear sunblock everyday?
SHUNNING THE SUN: Do you remember to wear sunblock everyday?

More than 200 men die of skin cancer every year but despite knowing the risks of getting too much sun, 92 per cent of New Zealand men still step out most days without sunblock.

New research has shown only 8 per cent of Kiwi men wear sunblock every day, despite New Zealand having one of the worst rates of melanoma in the world.

An independent survey of 1404 New Zealanders also found more than two thirds of New Zealand men - 63 per cent - had not had their skin checked in the past five years.

Melanoma Foundation chief executive Kylie Williams said it was frustrating, because melanoma was such a preventable disease.

"We need to take it far more seriously because it's just not getting through to some people.

"The rate of skin cancer is higher than the road toll, and until we focus on it in the same way, it's unlikely things will improve," she said.

While women were three times more likely to wear sunscreen daily, that still only came to 26 per cent. 

"It's still not enough," Williams said. 

"Melanoma is a truly awful and deadly type of cancer, and I think people would not be quite so blasé about it if they had seen or experienced the effects first hand."

The research, carried out by Canstar Blue, also found Generation Y had the most lax attitude to skin protection with 64 per cent of Gen Y respondents reporting they only wore sunscreen on hot, sunny days.

They were also the least concerned about the health implications of sun damage compared to both the national average, and baby boomers who reported having the highest concerns about the possibility of skin damage.

Williams said the need to be ''tanned, toned and terrific", was a dangerous mindset.

"Toned and terrific by all means, but if you feel you need to tan up then we can all just reach for fake tan. There's no need to put our skin through that."

Cancer Society spokeswoman Fiona Mawley said the issue was about skin cancer in general, and not just melanoma. 

"We are keen to get the message across that sunscreen is just a component of sunsmart behaviour."

With this summer predicted to be long and hot, both organisations said the best advice was to stay out of the sun between the hours of 10am and 4pm, but if that was too hard to bare, then it was important to wear at least an SPF 30 sunscreen along with a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing.

Figures from the Melanoma Organisation and the Cancer Society showed melanoma was the fourth most common type of skin cancer in New Zealand with more than 300 deaths each year and rising.

In 2008, 2256 people were diagnosed with melanoma and 317 people died. Far more men die of the cancer than women each year.

There are about 67,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed in New Zealand every year.


- Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand.

- It is the most commonly registered cancer in men aged 25 - 44 and the second most commonly registered cancer in women of the same age group.  

- Although 70 per cent of cases occur in those 50 years and older, melanoma is reasonably common in younger age groups, with significant numbers in men and women between the ages of 25 and 44.

- Melanoma rarely occurs in children, although can occur later in life if children suffer serious burns.

- Death rates from melanoma are higher among men and appear to be increasing.

 -Although Maori and Pacific people have a much lower chance of getting melanoma, they often have thicker (more serious) melanomas.

Fairfax Media