More than 4000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with either melanoma in situ or invasive melanoma every year – that’s around 13 every day. Once it penetrates your skin by more than 2mm, it can quickly spread to other parts of your body.
New Zealand’s melanoma incidence rate is the world’s highest. We’ve pushed Australia off the top position. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, we have higher levels of UV here; secondly, a lot of us are from northern European extraction, i.e. naturally pale people; thirdly, we love being outside. When all of these factors come together, it’s a perfect storm for melanoma.
Our Auckland print partners Soar Print have been supporters of Melanoma New Zealand for many years. Their managing director Fred used to be their chairperson and he’s still on the board. What’s more, a member of our team is currently battling melanoma. We’ve all got our fingers crossed for him.
We don’t want you to get melanoma, so here are our best tips for prevention. We’ve checked these with Melanoma New Zealand, so you can trust us on this.
1. Choose SPF 30 (or more) broad spectrum
There’s been some controversy about SPF ratings recently. Some products aren’t living up to their labels. Consumer New Zealand did some testing and came up with a guide to help you make good choices. They recommend broad spectrum, because that’s the only way to screen both UVA and UVB.
2. Use the teaspoon rule for application
You don’t want to be frugal with sunscreen. For proper protection, you need to use enough. Think in teaspoons. One teaspoon for your head and neck, one teaspoon for each limb, one teaspoon for your front and another for your back. All up, seven teaspoons of sunscreen will be required when you’re wearing your tiniest togs.
7 teaspoons of sunscreen for your whole body
3. Check the expiry date on your sun products
Sunscreen loses its effectiveness with age, so check the expiry date on your products before you take them to the beach.
4. Take some shade to the beach
It’s hard to find an unoccupied pohutukawa tree during the height of summer, so pack sun umbrellas or set up a beach shelter. While you can’t avoid direct sun while you’re swimming, at other times you should gravitate to the shade.
5. Fake your tan
Being a bronzed god or goddess is easy these days. Fake it. There are some excellent moisturisers around now with a tanning component. They’re better than a real tan because they’re not likely to kill you. Never ever use a sun bed – it has the potential to increase your risk of melanoma by 75%!
6. Apply the Ugly Duckling rule to existing moles
The idea behind the Ugly Duckling rule is that you compare your moles with each other. If any mole stands out or looks different to other moles, it is an ugly duckling that should be checked by a doctor.
7. Visit Melanoma New Zealand’s site
In addition to sunscreen, hats, clothing and shade, Melanoma New Zealand’s prevention guide is a mighty weapon against skin cancer. Go there and read up.