Pharmacy and medical imaging firms team up to provide potentially life-saving service.

Aucklanders worried that they may be developing skin cancer have been given a new screening test option at three shopping malls.

The LifePharmacy shops at malls in St Lukes, Albany and Glenfield have teamed up with a medical imaging company to take photographs with a specialised camera of a suspect spot, mole or freckle on patients' skin. The service, for which no appointment is required, costs $60.

Two pictures are taken of each patient's suspect mole or other skin lesion: a standard photograph and a "dermascope image". The latter uses special lighting within the camera to allow viewers to see the structure within the lesion. This image can be used for the initial detection of potential skin cancers.

The images, taken by pharmacy staff and accompanied by a summary of the patient's relevant medical history, are sent to the person's GP, and to a skin specialist at the medical imaging company, MoleMap.


The company sends a report to the patient within several days advising if any further action needs to be taken.

Alan Wham, chief executive of Pharmacybrands, of which LifePharmacy shops are a part, said the service offered convenience and accessibility to consumers who otherwise might not have lesions checked.

Other skin-check options that are available include seeing a general practitioner, which on average for New Zealand adults costs around $30, or having a full skin check from a skin specialist, which can cost $250 or more.

The Skin Surgery Clinic in Blockhouse Bay offers free skin cancer checks.

The Cancer Society recommends people check their skin every three months.

New Zealand has the highest melanoma incidence of any country. Each year, more than 2000 new cases are diagnosed and more than 300 people die from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

In addition, the society estimates there are around 67,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer a year and 100 deaths.

MoleMap medical director Dr Mark Gray said people should take more notice of the lesions on their skin, particularly any that were quite different from the majority.


Skin specialists encourage people to remember the characteristics that arouse skin cancer suspicion with the A-B-C-D-E list: asymmetry, border irregularity, colour variability, diameter more than 6mm and evolution, or change in the lesion.

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What to look for

The A-B-C-D-E list for skin lesions:
A - Asymmetry
B - Border irregularity
C - Colour variability
D - Diameter more than 6mm
E - Evolution of change in the lesion