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Kiwi Men At Greatest Risk Of Skin Cancer

Media release Dec 15th 2007

Kiwi Men At Greatest Risk Of Skin Cancer

New Zealand men are ignoring sun safety messages and are at greatest risk of skin cancer with more than one in four (27%) saying they rarely or never use a sunscreen.

A study commissioned by the Skin Institute and conducted by Consumer Link (a division of Colmar Brunton) looked at Kiwis’ sun protection habits during the warmer weather and the results have medical professionals concerned.

Despite constant public health warnings less than a third of New Zealanders (27%) are following the advice of skincare experts and applying sunscreen every time they are in the sun, with some respondents claiming their unprotected exposure provides them with a good source of Vitamin D.

The study also revealed that nearly a third of New Zealanders have been exposed to irreversible sun damage, with 32% of those surveyed indicating they have been burnt to the point of their skin peeling once or more in the past 12 months. That figure rose to 37% for male respondents.

Auckland cancer specialist Mr Mark Izzard says he’s tired of the cavalier attitude Kiwis have towards sun protection.

“There is no easy way to tell someone they are going to die from something as innocuous as skin cancer,” says Mr Izzard. “In Auckland alone we see 150 patients a year who will fall into that category. People still seem to trivialise skin cancer.”

Mr Izzard says when patients do hear the bad news most react with anger at their own carelessness.


Despite the prevalence of free mole check services a staggering 76% of New Zealanders are putting themselves at risk of deadly melanomas by not getting their moles checked as regularly as recommended.

More than half of the respondents (52%) had never had a mole checked, yet nearly a quarter (24%) of New Zealanders have had a mole removed because of concerns about skin cancer.

“It simply astounds me that despite 20 years of sun education and free spot checking services such as those offered by the Skin Institute that people still don’t bother to get themselves checked,” says Mr Izzard.

The survey also revealed 40% of New Zealanders had been affected by skin cancer at some point in their lives with themselves, a family member or someone they know suffering from the disease.

When it came to shunning public health messages men were the biggest culprits with more than a quarter (27%) saying they rarely or never wear sunscreen. In contrast to this, 14% of women said they rarely or never wear sunscreen while in the sun.

“With the amount of education available it is completely irresponsible for people to be lying in the sun roasting their bodies. Around 300 New Zealanders will die from skin cancer this year, 75% of those from melanoma, roughly the number who die in motor vehicle accidents. “says Mr Izzard.

The reasons for New Zealanders allowing exposure to the sun without protection are just as concerning, with 27% deliberately exposing themselves to permanent skin damage by using the sun as a source of Vitamin D.

The Skin Institute’s Dr Marcus Platts Mills says this is just an excuse for Kiwis to be complacent about sun protection.

“A 30 minute walk down the road (as advised by Osteoporosis NZ) would give you sufficient Vitamin D to help build bone density. There is absolutely no need for Kiwis to be exposing themselves to the sun at the levels they are,” says Dr Platts Mills.

A further 28% indicated they deliberately go into the sun because they like a tan and 18% of respondents said they couldn’t avoid it because of the nature of their work.


Skin Institute Dermatologist Dr Mark Gray says it’s unfortunate that despite education Kiwis still aspire to having tanned skin.

“It really is a bit like smoking, they don’t see the damage it’s caused until 20 or 30 years down the track and often by then it’s too late,” he says.

Some New Zealanders were making an effort, saying they were more likely to slip on clothing to protect themselves, however just 26% of the population said they always wear protective clothing while in the sun.

All three doctors recommend using sunscreen, covering up and most importantly keeping out of the sun between the hours of 10-4pm.

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