Kiwis blasé over sun's deadly rays

By Amelia Wade

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand has the highest melanoma rate in the world, yet fewer than one in 10 men wear sunscreen every day they are outdoors.

The figure has alarmed a cancer professional who says Kiwi men take a "she'll be right" attitude and don't respect the dangers of the sun.

The Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand's interim chief executive, Kylie Williams, said people needed to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day all year round.

"We're just too blase in New Zealand. We're just not made for this sun, we're not made for this lack of ozone layer," she said.

Even women who used moisturiser with a sun protection factor in it were not getting the defence from the sun they needed, Mrs Williams said.

The official recommendation is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+ every day. It should be reapplied every two hours.

"The number one thing is to not let you or your children get burned. We have the saying, 'Haven't you learned? Don't get burned'. It could be a decade after getting burned that you develop melanoma," Mrs Williams said.

Only 19 per cent of New Zealanders wear sunblock every day, not just during the summer, an independent Canstar Blue survey on sunscreen has found.

The survey also found nearly two-thirds of Kiwis (63 per cent) have not had their skin checked by a specialist in the past five years.

Mrs Williams said this was not good enough, especially during the daylight-saving months when the sun was at its harshest.

"Men just have this 'she'll be right' attitude and think they won't get burned and if they do, it won't matter," Mrs Williams said.

Although 70 per cent of melanoma cases occurred in those aged 50 and over, a significant number of men and women aged between 25 and 44 also suffered from the cancer.

Those aged between 20 and 30 were the most relaxed in their attitude towards skin protection, with 64 per cent choosing to wear sunscreen only on hot, sunny days.

The survey found people in that age group were also the least concerned about the health implications of sun damage compared with the national average.

Baby boomers were the most concerned about skin damage.

SunSmart programme manager Laurianne Reinsborough said even wearing sunscreen each day still wasn't enough.

People should also wear protective clothing such as hats and long-sleeved, collared shirts as well as staying in the shade as much as possible during the daylight-saving months.

Derek Bonnar, Canstar New Zealand's national manager, said it was important the younger generations was reminded about the dangers of excessive sun exposure.

"I think younger Kiwis may have forgotten or just don't realise how dangerous exposure to UV rays can be and the damage they can inflict."

KIWI KILLER

Melanoma in NZ
* Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand, with more than 2000 new cases each year.
* Between 1998 and 2008, rates of registration rose 12 per cent for males and 16 per cent for females.
* In 2008, 202 men and 115 women died from melanoma.
* Melanoma is the most commonly registered cancer in men aged 25 to 44.
* Figures from the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand.

Kiwis and sunblock
* 19 per cent of all New Zealanders wear sunscreen every day.
* 89 per cent are concerned about the health implications of sun exposure.
* 78 per cent are more vigilant about putting sunscreen on their kids than themselves.
* 42 per cent check their own skin monthly for any changes.
* 63 per cent haven't had their skin checked by a specialist in the past five years.

- NZ Herald

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