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Winter melanoma on the rise

Winter melanoma on the rise

Melanoma doesn’t hibernate

Auckland, 13th August 2006 – Melanoma diagnosed during New Zealand’s winter months is on the rise despite the lack of sunshine. Cases reported in winter have risen 24% from 2003 to 2005 according to an analysis of New Zealand’s cancer registry data carried out by MoleMap. During the same three year period, melanoma incidence across all seasons increased by 13.5%.

Last winter alone, 737 New Zealanders were diagnosed with melanoma, around 21% of all cases reported throughout the year. The cooler months dominate the more serious cases of melanoma, with 54% of the advanced melanoma (invasive melanoma over 4mm thick) reported in the last 6 years being diagnosed in winter or spring. The consistency of reported incidence of melanoma throughout the seasons is in stark contrast to the lower numbers of patients attending screening appointments during winter.

MoleMap CEO Adrian Bowling says reasons for the winter increase in incidence are unclear but despite the rapid rise, the statistics may be more positive than they look. “Melanoma diagnosis for anyone can be devastating but most of the increase recorded is in early melanoma. This may suggest the educational initiatives and surveillance and monitoring procedures available in New Zealand are identifying more melanoma at an early and more treatable stage.”

Further analysis indicates men are more likely to have an advanced melanoma. Although the incidence of all melanoma is equally prevalent in men and women, 60% of all advanced melanoma is found in men. In winter the figure is even higher with around two thirds of advanced melanoma found in men.

“It is very clear from this analysis that just because the sun isn’t shining doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore skin changes and we know early diagnosis saves lives. Over the last four years MoleMap has experienced a large increase in winter consultations indicating some level of understanding melanoma continues to develop even without the summer sun. Despite this growth winter consultations rates are still significantly lower than summer,” says Mr Bowling.

It is recommended people conduct regular self checks for skin changes and have an annual skin examination with a medical professional. MoleMap is the only New Zealand melanoma surveillance programme which includes a dermatologist diagnosis, total body photography, digital dermoscopy and education about self checking and monitoring.


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