May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to shed light on the importance of prevention and early detection.
By Abbie Cameron (RN)
In New Zealand, with our high levels of UV radiation, it is especially important to prioritise preventive measures and regular skin checks to detect skin cancer at its earliest stages.
Skin cancer is a serious public health concern, with New Zealand having the highest incidence rate of melanoma in the world. Approximately 6,000 melanomas are diagnosed in New Zealand every year and over 300 people die of melanoma ever year. Globally, there are approximately 132,000 new cases of melanoma worldwide each year, leading to over 55,000 deaths. These numbers show the importance of increased awareness and preventative measures.
There are three pillars to optimal preventative care when it comes to skin cancer: sun protection, regular self-checks and skin checks by a skin cancer doctor or dermoscopist.
1. Protect your skin
Make sun protection a regular part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. Apply sunscreen daily, even on cloudy days, and reapply it every few hours. Keep an eye on what the UV is doing throughout the day (the UVNZ app is great for this), wear a hat and sunglasses, and seek shade when the sun is strongest.
With ski season just around the corner it’s important to remember to keep protecting yourself from the harmful UV rays, which are stronger at higher altitudes and also reflect up off the snow (and water and concrete too).
2. Skin self-check
Along with these steps, get in the habit of doing a monthly self-check. Regular self-examinations of your skin can play a crucial role in detecting early signs of skin cancer. Get familiar with your skin's normal appearance and pay attention to any changes in moles, freckles, or other skin lesions. If you notice any that have changed in size, shape, colour, or are itchy or bleeding, make an appointment with a skin cancer doctor or dermoscopist to get it checked out.
3. Yearly full body SkinCheck
Yearly total body skin checks are another preventative measure to keep ahead of the game. A trained skin cancer doctor or dermoscopist has the expertise to do a thorough non-invasive skin check. They can identify subtle changes that may go unnoticed during self-checks and provide a more accurate diagnosis.
Workplace skin checks are one way to get these yearly checks done in a convenient way. Outdoor workers (such as farmers, construction workers and gardeners) are at a higher risk of skin cancer due to prolonged sun exposure. Skin checks as part of an employer’s occupational health program can help provide detailed education about prevention to employees and identify potential skin cancer cases early.
Remember, prevention and early detection are key to ensuring the best possible outcomes when it comes to skin cancer. Take care of your skin, protect it from the sun's harmful rays, and prioritize regular skin checks to maintain optimal skin health.
Find out more about Healthbox workplace and individual SkinCheck appointments, and see how we can help you save your skin.