Non-melanoma skin cancer rates have hit an all time high, and the Cancer Society of New Zealand wants urgent Government action.

The burden of non-melanoma skin cancer is well beyond what the Society expected, they revealed today.

Non-melanoma skin cancer rates (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) are projected to reach a new record high affecting 90,000 people this year, up from 67,000 cases in 2006.

Medical director for the Cancer Society Dr Chris Jackson said the figures showed a "staggering number" of Kiwis were affected by skin cancer, and there was an urgent need to increase sun protection and reduce UV damage.


While the projected figures for 2018 include both invasive and non-invasive skin cancers, whereas the 2006 figures include only invasive skin cancers, this is still a major rise in the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer.

"We already know we have the highest rate of melanoma in the world, but basal and squamous cell cancers aren't usually counted by the cancer registry.

"This new research is the first attempt to estimate contemporary skin cancer rates in New Zealand with previous data only available from 2006 …

"We need a strong response from Government that includes banning sunbeds, improving sun protection for outdoor workers, making shade areas mandatory and rolling out funding for SunSmart into all schools, and launching a skin cancer reduction strategy."

The data from the research will be useful for informing projections for health care system costs and the planning of future health care needs in New Zealand, said Jackson.

"Meanwhile we encourage all New Zealanders who are concerned about dark, pigmented skin spots, or ones that are crusted or bleeding, to see a doctor."

The Cancer Society strongly recommend that all Kiwis continue to slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses.

The research: "Expected keratinocytic cancer incidence in New Zealand" was funded by the New Zealand Health Promotion Agency and the Cancer Society of New Zealand and authored by epidemiologist Mary Jane Sneyd and biostatistician Andrew Gray.