A Rotorua mother who lost a son to melanoma in 2017 says it's ridiculous sunscreens do not need to prove they provide the protection they claim to.
Anyone who produces sunscreen in this country can sell it without having to test they actually provide the level of protection they claim.
However, a bill ensuring all sunscreens in New Zealand met the level of SPF they claimed on the bottle passed its first reading in parliament last week.
It comes as a leading Bay of Plenty skin doctor revealed upwards of 20 people were being diagnosed with melanoma in the region each week.
Elizabeth Pilaar lost her son Michael to melanoma in 2017. He was 19.
Michael was 17 when diagnosed with melanoma after a large and rather "ugly" mole on his calf gave his mother some concerns.
It had been there for years before she realised, in 2015, it had grown bigger.
"I will always regret not having acted earlier," Pilaar told the Rotorua Daily Post last year.
Pilaar welcomed the new sunscreen bill which passed its first reading on Wednesday last week but was surprised it was not already in place.
"We all want to enjoy the sun but it's really shocking what [many of] these sunscreen brands have been doing for years," Pilaar said.
"New Zealand has one of the highest melanoma rates in the world. It's ridiculous."
Pilaar said people should familiarise themselves with the 'ABCDEs' of melanoma, an acronym designed to help people identify skin cancers.
She also wanted to especially thank Consumer NZ for the work it had been doing for years around testing sunscreen protection claims.
The watchdog has run studies for years testing the SPF and broad-spectrum claims of sunscreens, many of which do not.
In 2020, it tested 10 sunscreens and only found five were up to standard.
Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said it was surprising and disappointing it had taken this long before someone took action.
"Any move towards making it mandatory for sunscreen manufacturers to comply with the Australia-New Zealand standard is good.
"It is an odd situation that in a country with one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world, we do not require sunscreen manufacturers to meet the basic standards.
"In 10 years, when we look back at this period in time when there was no mandatory standard and loose rules around sunscreen, people will be dumbfounded by the idea there wasn't firm regulation in place."
Bay of Plenty National MP Todd Muller was responsible for taking the bill to Parliament.
Having passed its first reading on Wednesday, the bill will now go before a select committee which will also take submissions from across New Zealand.
Muller told the Bay of Plenty Times he hoped Parliament would be back in the house to pass it into law within a few months.
"I'm stoked," he said when asked about his reaction to the bill passing its first reading.
"I've worked hard to get cross-party support and I've got every party to back it, so it's a really great first step but it's needed.
"I think the whole idea that you have sunscreen but you can't be sure that the SPF on the label is what's in the bottle is a bit of nonsense. This bill will fix that."
Muller thought most people in New Zealand would have been affected by skin cancer and had had a number of minor skin cancers removed himself.
"We're one of the worst in the world in terms of melanoma rates, most families have been touched by skin cancer of some sort," he said.
Melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer, according to the Ministry of Health.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are far more common than melanoma, however, they tend to be less serious as long as they are treated.
New Zealand has the highest incidence rate - the probability of a medical condition occurs in a population - of melanoma in the world.
Dr Franz Strydom of Tauranga's Skinspots skin cancer clinic said there was a major problem with melanoma and other skin cancer in the region.
"There are about 20 melanomas a week," he said. "The non-melanoma skin cancers, there's far more being done. It's almost 10 times more being diagnosed for those.
"There's certainly a problem. All the skincare clinics in Tauranga are booked at least a month ahead, some three."
He said there were two major factors why cancer rates were so high in the Bay of Plenty: heritage and lifestyle.
Many people in the region are of Scottish heritage and fair-skinned and the lifestyle here is one centred around often being outdoors, Strydom said.
Meanwhile, he had taken issue with there being no standardisation of sunscreens and said they need to be enforced.
"Sunscreens all work but some work a lot better than others and that's where the standards are really important," Strydom said.
"We need to know that if we put something on, that it's going to work and we need to know what we can expect from it."
The 'ABCDEs' of melanoma:
• A melanocytic naevus (harmless mole) is usually symmetrical, whereas melanoma is often irregular or asymmetrical in shape.
B: Border irregularity
• A melanocytic naevus has smooth and even borders, whereas a melanoma often has irregular and hard-to-define borders.
C: Colour variation
• A melanocytic naevus usually has a single shade of colour or two shades of colour with one occurring inside the other or regularly repeated (generally pink, brown, or tan).
• Most melanomas are greater than 6 mm in diameter when they are diagnosed (this is about the size of a pencil eraser). D is sometimes used to mean 'dark colour'. D is also used for 'different'. Benign moles resemble each other, whereas a melanoma appears unique and very different from the patient's other lesions.
E: Evolving or changing
• A melanocytic naevus is usually stable and does not change in size, shape, or colour, whereas a melanoma changes over time. Change in size, colour, shape, or structure may be noted over months to years.