Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a journalist based in Auckland.

Increased skin cancer risk in record-breaking summer

New Zealanders have been subjected to much more of the dangerous UVA and UVB wavelengths this summer. Photo / Thinkstock
New Zealanders have been subjected to much more of the dangerous UVA and UVB wavelengths this summer. Photo / Thinkstock

The record-breaking sunny weather this summer has led to an increased risk of skin cancer, with a big increase in the amount of dangerous ultraviolet radiation.

NIWA data analysed by dermatologists at MoleMap showed the 35 per cent increase in sunlight hours this summer brought a 17 per cent increase in UV radiation, which was the main factor responsible for skin cancers.

MoleMap medical director and skin cancer specialist Mark Gray said the increase meant New Zealanders had been subjected to much more of the dangerous UVA and UVB wavelengths.

He said the long UVA wavelength accounts for the vast majority of solar UV radiation which reaches the earth.

"UVA can penetrate glass and clouds and can initiate and also increase the growth of skin cancers. UVB is responsible for burning, tanning, the acceleration of skin ageing and plays a significant role in the development of skin cancer."

Dr Gray said skin cancer was the most common form of cancer in New Zealand with more than 45,000 Kiwis affected by it each year and about 400 dying from the disease each year.

He said greater exposure to both UVA and UVB radiation was a timely reminder for New Zealanders to have their moles mapped.

"We need to be vigilant about protecting ourselves from the sun, limiting exposure along with regular and long term skin monitoring with your health professional, which is crucial in preventing the development of melanoma."

- APNZ

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