With summer around the corner people in Rotorua are beginning to plan barbecues, days at the lake and outdoor adventures but, the Cancer Society warns, beware of the sun.

Waikato and Bay of Plenty Cancer Society health promotion manager Melanie Desmarais said New Zealand had nearly 350 deaths every year because of melanoma.

She said about 67,000 people were registered with melanoma each year.

"We are the world highest in terms of skin cancer, we have overtaken Australia."


It was because of this, she said, the society had been trying to educate schools with their Sun Smart programme which it had been rolling out throughout Rotorua.

"Sixty-eight per cent of our schools are accredited in our region. We are now looking to bring early childhood centres on board as well."

Mrs Desmarais said it was important for parents to look after their children's skin.

"Their skin is still developing and while it may only look like sunburn now it can become skin cancer later on in life."

She said they had also released a new app last month called UVI in conjunction with Niwa.

The app shows how much UV there is each day in your area and how it changes during the day as the sun moves.

This helps users know when to protect themselves with sunscreen, a hat, clothes and shade, she said.

She said even when there was cloud the UV levels could still be high and that was when the app became very helpful.

Dr Phil Shoemack, medical officer of health for Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service said New Zealand had one of the highest rates of different types of skin cancer.

"The sun's rays are much stronger in New Zealand than other parts of the world. We also have good air quality so we don't have fog and smog to hide the sun. Our ozone layer is thinner and we also like the outdoors, so we are more at risk."

He said, as well as skin cancer, the sun caused other problems.

"It makes our skin dry and ages it faster than it should and anyone who has been sunburned would know it can cause pain and suffering.

"We have made major progress over the years raising awareness but I think we could do better.

"Whenever possible and practical we should keep out of the sun when it's at its hottest, during the middle hours of the day. When you are out there you need to take good steps, slip, slop, slap and wrap."

He said there were also ways of creating a safer environment, such as planting more trees, using shade cloths and umbrellas.