Beach shorts, bikini tops, sun hats, and sunglasses - Mount Maunganui was teeming with people enjoying the sun. But only a quarter of them were wearing sunscreen.

The surveyed 40 people on Marine Parade shortly before lunchtime yesterday , asking if they were wearing sunscreen.

Of the beach-goers, Mauao walkers, cafe customers and holidaymakers who responded, 30 said they were and 10 were not.

Well-known New Zealand GP and Tauranga skin cancer doctor Dr Franz Strydom said people needed to be more aware of the risks of braving summer sunshine without protection.

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New Zealand was the world capital of skin cancer, he said.

"For most people, especially those with fair skin, it would just be a matter of time before they get skin cancer if they make regular use of the New Zealand outdoors."

Of all Bay of Plenty District Health Board cancer registrations in 2017/18, 12 per cent were for melanoma. In Waikato, it was 11 per cent and in the Rotorua Lakes district, 10 per cent.

About 500 people die from skin cancer in New Zealand each year.

Strydom said while most people should wear sunscreen on a daily basis, many did not.

"In my experience, it is more common for ladies to wear sunscreen, especially if it is part of the daily makeup routine. Guys tend to be a bit slack. It is mostly people who have had a skin cancer removed who will tend to put on sunscreen."

Rick Duggan, visiting from Auckland, was among those people scared into wearing sunscreen daily. From Marine Parade's boardwalk, Duggan said he and his friend were heading to the beach that morning when they realised they did not have their sunscreen and turned around to get it, rather than carry on without.

Beachgoers lap up the sun at Mount Maunganui but not enough are wearing sunscreen, a survey has found. Photo / Andrew Warner
Beachgoers lap up the sun at Mount Maunganui but not enough are wearing sunscreen, a survey has found. Photo / Andrew Warner

"I have to have sunscreen regularly. I've had a few things cut out of my back, so I'm really aware of it."

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Dressed in a shirt, hat and sunglasses, with sunscreen bottle hanging out of his bag, he said: "I wouldn't be without it."

A few metres away, Mount Maunganui local Josh Slater was watching 3-year-old daughter Summer playing in the grass by the beach.

"She makes you [wear sunscreen], pretty much. As soon as you have a child, that's it - every day you wear sunscreen.

"You've got to lead by example, don't you?"

However, not everyone was as vigilant.

Matt Butcher said he usually wore sunscreen but didn't yesterday "because I was just going around the Mount and then home again".

British native Rose Carr said she had been wearing factor-50 sunscreen "pretty regularly" during her three-week holiday here but decided against it yesterday.

"We've only got a few days left and I want to tan up a little bit before going home."

Others not wearing sunscreen said they did not anticipate on being outside while one man explained he had Spanish blood and did not need any.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Cancer Society community services manager Ellen Fisher said 90 per cent of skin cancers could potentially be prevented by reducing over-exposure to UV rays.

"Yet research shows that a worrying number of Kiwis are not wearing hats, seeking shade or using sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun.

"One of the common mistakes people make is not protecting their skin on cool or cloudy days."

Fisher said UV radiation could not be felt or seen, so people should not rely on the temperature as an indication of whether they need to protect themselves from the sun.

Sunscreen safety a priority for 'pretty white fella'

Mount Maunganui holidaymaker Cheyne Baker would not be without sunscreen. Photo / Andrew Warner
Mount Maunganui holidaymaker Cheyne Baker would not be without sunscreen. Photo / Andrew Warner

Mount Maunganui holidaymaker Cheyne Baker would not go a day without putting on sunscreen.

"I have to. I'm a pretty white fella," he said.

The 26-year-old regularly visits Mount Maunganui and was down from Orewa yesterday to work at this weekend's Mount Festival of Multisport. While at the Mount's Main Beach , Baker said he was so badly sunburned as an infant he ended up in hospital for two to three weeks.

"I've always got to wear sunblock.

"When I was a little kid, about eight months old, I was in Australia with my parents and they had sat me on the sand at the beach."

Baker said the sun's reflection on the Australian white sand had intensified to such a degree he ended up badly burned and needing hospital treatment.

Ever since, Baker has been acutely aware of the sun's dangers.

"I have to wear sunblock now, otherwise I get really bad sunstroke, so I'm always slopping it on. I always wear sunscreen."

How to keep yourself safe from the sun

- Slip, slop, slap and wrap – slip on a shirt or into the shade, slop on plenty of broad-spectrum sunscreen, slap on a hat with a wide brim and wrap on a pair of close-fitting sunglasses
- Check the UV level before going outside; if it's three or more you need to be SunSmart. UV levels can be found using the uv2Day app or at niwa.co.nz
- Get to know their skin well and do regular checks for any moles, spots or skin patches that have appeared or changed over time. Skin cancer can be in places you can't see yourself so you may need to ask someone to help you check, or use a mirror. Get any changes checked by your GP or specialist.
Source - Waikato Bay of Plenty Cancer Society