Bookings at a monthly skin clinic in Carterton have increased dramatically, demonstrating the importance of sun safety to Wairarapa residents, a health professional says.
Mole Map clinic manager Gill Rolfe told the Times-Age clinicians saw about 10 patients at their Carterton clinic each month. A further 50 to 60 people went through its Wellington clinic each week, some travelling from Wairarapa.
"We are booked out until Christmas.
"It shows a high level of awareness in the region ... and because we're booked out and see so many people in Wellington, we're thinking of doing another clinic in Masterton," Mrs Rolfe said.
The company runs clinics throughout New Zealand where patients have the surface of their skin digitally imaged, recording any lesions and moles, with follow-up checks for changes and growths. The initial consultation costs $300.
Latest available figures for Wairarapa show 22 people were diagnosed with melanoma in 2009, 13 of whom were male.
Mrs Rolfe said with summer approaching it was essential people got into good sun protection habits, especially as New Zealanders had the highest rates of melanoma in the world.
The Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand warned this week too many New Zealanders had the wrong attitude when it came to the "sunny outdoors".
"We have the most blase attitude when it comes to sun protection - especially in men and teenagers," interim chief executive Kylie Williams said.
An independent survey revealing fewer than one in 10 Kiwi men wore sunscreen was bitterly disappointing for the organisation.
"We have so many Kiwi males who have outdoor jobs ... and put themselves at risk every day."
The strike rate for melanoma, which killed about 300 Kiwis every year, was also higher in men than women, Mrs Williams said. "It is the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand and ... in males aged 25 to 44 years it is the most common cancer."
And the statistics were getting worse.
Between 1998 and 2008, the number of reported melanoma cases rose 12 per cent for males and 16 per cent for females, according to the Melanoma Foundation.
"There has also been an increase in the number of teenagers getting diagnosed, which is a serious concern," Mrs Williams said.
"The worst thing you can do is let your children get burnt. People have got to be vigilant about it. We get people who are diagnosed with melanoma in their 50s, but the damage had been done decades earlier."
The Canstar Blue survey, which looked at the skin protection habits of about 1400 Kiwis, also found those between 20 and 30 were the worst at looking after their skin, with 64 per cent choosing to only wear sunscreen on hot, sunny days.
Mrs Williams said the findings were "crazy". "If you compare it to the precautions we take when driving and how everyone is quite happy to put on a seatbelt, but then they will go out into the sun and fry themselves - it just doesn't make sense because more people die from melanoma every year than on our roads."
- Slip, slop, slap - cover up and stay out of the sun.
- Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every two hours.
- Check your skin annually - immediately consult a doctor if you notice anything different or new.
- Avoid sunbeds.
- 326 people died in 2009, 213 of whom were males.
- 2212 people diagnosed with the cancer in 2009.
- Caused by exposure to UV radiation in sunlight.
- Sunburn in childhood increases the risk later in life.
- Use of sunbeds before age 35 is associated with a 75 per cent rise in risk.
Source: Ministry of Health