Beware of Bay's sunshine hours

By Ruth Keber

ATTRACTION: Yesterday's sunshine drew plenty of holidaymakers to Mount Main Beach.PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
ATTRACTION: Yesterday's sunshine drew plenty of holidaymakers to Mount Main Beach.PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

Over the past 30 years the Bay of Plenty region has seen some of the longest hours of sunlight in New Zealand.

With a mean of 2345.6 sunlight hours a year, coming in just behind Bleheim, Nelson and Lake Tekapo in the South Island, Bay of Plenty is the sunniest region in the North Island.

However, with at least 2200 hours of sunlight a year it makes it one of the hotspots for skin cancer and melanoma hospitalisation in New Zealand.

Skin Centre skin specialist Dr Paul Salmon said he saw hundreds of people a week in his clinic with skin cancer.

"There are about 160 cases of skin cancers in the Bay of Plenty region per 100,000 people every year.

"That's about 1 in 14 chance of getting it."

This is twice the national average, he said.

He did note the chance of Maori and Pacific Island people getting skin cancers were significantly less than Caucasian people.

Dr Salmon said his clinic would see one to two patients a day with melanomas.

This is the most common "dangerous" skin cancer, he said.

"It is dangerous because if you have a melanoma smaller that 1mg it is still capable of killing you.

"That is the nasty part of melanoma, very small but capable of spreading to anywhere in your body."

But with early detection, most skin cancers can be cured, he said.

Dr Salmon said because skin cancers are directly related to sun exposure it's best to avoid the chance of getting a skin cancer.

"Don't take your clothes off outside. Stay in the shade, no sun in the middle of the day, and if you are out then, wear a big hat and long sleeves.

"A bikini in the middle of the day is a dumb idea."

Health Promotion Agency Corporate Communications Manager Lynne Walsh said although research on skin cancers in the area hadn't been done for a few years, it was still one of the highest areas of skin cancers. "The registration rate for melanoma was statistically significantly higher in the Bay of Plenty than that observed nationally.

A survey done by Health promotion agency in 2010 showed more than 400 New Zealanders died every year from skin cancer.

"With melanoma being responsible for most of these deaths - 326 - in 2009."

Niwa has recorded between seven and eight hours of sunshine a day for the month of December and Media and Communications Meteorologist Daniel Corbett said they were expecting the normal temperatures and sunshine for the coming months.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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