James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Slip, slop and slap the best defence

MasterChef judge makes sure his boys don't bake themselves in the sun, after his father died of melanoma

Josh Emmett and 3-year-old son Louis cover up. Photo / Doug Sherring
Josh Emmett and 3-year-old son Louis cover up. Photo / Doug Sherring

MasterChef New Zealand judge Josh Emett remembers that as a young boy, his sun protection amounted to pulling on a pair of shorts and running around half-naked during the summer months.

But these days, he says, his two young boys, Finn, 4, and Louis, 3, wouldn't make it out the door without a hat, sunblock and the right clothing.

"We are very, very protective of our kids and making sure they are looking after their skin and we are as well and have been for the past few years," he said.

"We let them pretty loose at the beach, but we always put the sunscreen on and they always have hats on ... I think there's a lot of awareness of it."

Emett is one of three official ambassadors for the Melanoma Foundation and its annual awareness campaign, alongside former Silver Fern Adine Wilson and ironman Cameron Brown.

His support for the foundation stems from his father who died of melanoma three years ago - despite years of skin checks and mole-mapping.

His dad, a Ngahinapouri farmer, spent long days working in a pair of shorts, with no shirt on and no sunblock.

He eventually had a few moles removed over the years and a couple were found to be malignant.

But these weren't considered too serious - until one was found on the top of his head.

"He had lots of thick hair so it never got seen and by the time it was found it was too late," said Emett.


New Zealand has the world's highest rate of melanoma - more than 300 Kiwis a year die from the disease. It is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women.


His own time as a youngster enjoying holidays at Pauanui was much the same, with little heed paid to sun safety.

But he became more wary over the years and despite a long time living overseas in Europe and the US he was always aware of how harsh the sun could be in New Zealand.

He recently had his skin checked and everything was reportedly fine.

"I go so dark in the summer and I don't spend a lot of time to get that way, but you just can't be too careful.

"It's a major concern in New Zealand and it's proven that it does take a few lives every year."

New Zealand has the world's highest rate of melanoma - more than 300 Kiwis a year die from the disease. It is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women.

The chief executive officer of the Melanoma Foundation, Linda Flay, said that while New Zealanders in the 50-plus age bracket were more likely to get the cancer, it was a concern that younger Kiwis were falling victim to it.

Melanoma is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in 25 to 44-year-old males. It is also the highest registered cancer in males in the same age group, and the second-highest in females.

"They think they're infallible and think: 'I'm young and it's not going to happen to me,' but we are seeing it with people in their 50s who did the damage while they were in their 20s."

The foundation recommends wearing hats and long-sleeved, collared shirts, and staying in the shade as much as possible during the daylight-saving months.

A sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30+ applied every couple of hours should be used, as wrap-around sunglasses to avoid ocular melanoma.


Melanoma menace

• More than 4,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed in New Zealand each year - the highest rate in the world.

• It is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women.

• Melanoma killed more New Zealanders (300-plus) than car accidents (252) in the year to yesterday.

• The risk of getting melanoma increases with age - 70 per cent of cases occur in people over 50.

• It is the leading cancer registration in men aged 25-44 and second for women of the same age group.

• Early, routine and regular self- checking is the vital step to detecting melanoma.

• If it is detected early and it's thin, melanoma can easily be treated with surgery.

- NZ Herald

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