Monitoring your skin for signs of changes and indications of skin cancer is crucial to early intervention and treatment, but new research carried out by New Zealand skin specialist centre Skin Institute shows many of us aren’t staying on top of our skin health.
A staggering 84 per cent of those surveyed have not had a skin check in the past year; and more than half (52 per cent) have never had one at all. Just 16 per cent get a skin check annually, the frequency recommended by skin specialists.
It can be common to think it won’t happen to you because your skin type is not as susceptible, or that because you spend less time outdoors, you aren’t at risk.
These are common myths, but it’s important to know that skin cancer doesn’t discriminate. While people with a family history of skin cancer, a weakened immune system, fair skin and freckles, and multiple or unusual moles face a higher skin cancer risk, it can affect all types of people, men and women, across all ages, skin colours and types, ethnicities and communities.
Other reasons New Zealanders aren’t getting their skin checked include not thinking about it (43 per cent), believing they don’t need one (40 per cent), or considering it too expensive (33 per cent).
Most (49 per cent) who have had a skin check were only prompted to do so after becoming concerned about a skin issue.
Dr Sam Mayhew, Skin Institute Skin Cancer Doctor, says these statistics are concerning – particularly considering that New Zealand has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.
Melanoma is the third-most common cancer in New Zealand and accounts for 80 per cent of all skin cancer deaths, with 6,000 people diagnosed every year.*
“We know that New Zealand’s sun is harsh on the skin – the blazing sunshine and hole in the ozone layer lead to thousands of people each year suffering from melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, or squamous cell carcinoma, with an estimated 90,000 Kiwis diagnosed every year,” says Dr Mayhew.**
“That’s why it’s so worrying to see that many Kiwis are not looking out for their skin and having an annual skin check – this is one of the best ways to protect yourself against skin cancer, along with minimising your sun exposure.”
Monitoring the signs
Despite plenty of New Zealanders believing that they don’t need to get their skin looked over, more than half (56 per cent) admitted that they would not feel at all confident identifying a mole or lesion of concern for themselves and 14 per cent had no idea how to identify early signs of melanoma.
An evolving skin concern and change in colour are the most common signs of melanoma that Kiwis do know to look out for. It’s worth noting that sometimes the changes are subtle, and a lot of skin areas are hard to inspect ourselves in order to obtain a closer look.
“The signs of melanoma vary and are not always obvious,” says Dr Mayhew.
“That’s why it’s so important to book in with a skin cancer specialist instead of relying on yourself, and to keep on top of your health by booking in annually.”
What is a skin check?
It can be confronting facing the overwhelming statistics, but it’s worth being brave.
Whether that’s by visiting your GP or a skin health specialist, the important thing is to take action. They will assess your skin and look for any areas of concern. If any are identified you may be recommended to see a specialist and/or have the area or mole removed with a biopsy carried out to gain more information.
“It’s ideal to book in with a skin cancer specialist if you can, but the key thing is to take some sort of action and not leave your health to chance,” says Dr Mayhew, whether or not you think you’re at risk or have something to be concerned about.
“If caught early enough, skin cancer like melanoma has a good chance of being treated successfully. And despite common perception, staying on top of your skin checks does not have to break
“Skin Institute offer free spot checks if you have a particular concern, and follow-up checks are often less expensive than the initial consult when you opt to pay for a full body consultation.”
BOOK A SKIN CHECK NOW
You can get 1-2 moles/lesions of concern checked FREE at Skin Institute or alternatively, you can book a Full Skin Check with their experienced Nurse Dermoscopist team, who have been trained to focus on skin cancer detection. If you would like a full body skin cancer assessment, you can also make an appointment with one of their leading team of skin cancer specialists or doctors.
To book at one of Skin Institute’s 13 clinics, visit skininstitute.co.nz
Skin Institute is a multi-disciplinary specialist centre specialising in skin cancer healthcare and treatment including free spot checks, full body skin cancer consultations, skin biopsies and excisions, as well as offering Mohs Micrographic and CCPDMA surgery – the most advanced surgical method of skin cancer removal. It also specialises in appearance medicine, dermatology, and vein treatments.
To learn more, you can now book a consultation at Skin Institute online at skininstitute.co.nz or by calling 0800 SKIN DR (754 637).