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Complacent Kiwis Risk Developing Skin Cancer

Media release July 21, 2008

Complacent Kiwis Risk Developing Skin Cancer

Medical experts say New Zealanders are putting themselves at risk of developing skin cancer by not having moles checked and treated year round.

Skin cancer specialist Mr Isaac Cranshaw, of Auckland’s Skin Institute, says while some take onboard the sun-smart message during summer, many get complacent with their skin protection during winter.

Recent research* commissioned by the Skin Institute shows more than a quarter (27%) of men rarely or never wear sunscreen.

“If this is happening in summer when the sun is at its harshest then you’ve got to believe it’s happening during the colder months,” says Mr Cranshaw

The survey also revealed that more than half of the respondents (52%) had never had a mole checked by a medical practitioner.

Mr Cranshaw says the results are worrying because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand. Every year around 60,000 new cases are reported, with the disease responsible for over 250 deaths annually.

“Neglecting an abnormal mole can be potentially life threatening,” says Mr Cranshaw. “In Auckland alone we see 150 patients a year who will fall into that category. People still seem to trivialise skin cancer, so the number of cases continues to rise.”

The good news though is that nearly all skin cancers can be cured, if detected early enough, so it’s important to keep a vigilant watch of your skin year round, says Mr Cranshaw.

“Catching any skin irregularity in its earliest stages is your best chance of cure. Skin cancers present themselves in full view and there are a number of medical professionals offering free spot checks and other skin cancer preventing treatments.”

Mr Cranshaw says for those consumers with pre-cancerous changes new technological developments mean there is an alternative to drastic and invasive procedures.

Preventative treatments such as Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) allow patients to be pro-active in their defense against skin cancers by treating abnormalities at the earliest possible stage, says Mr Cranshaw.

PDT is a non surgical treatment option that can deliver excellent results. The procedure involves the application of a specially formulated cream onto a lesion. This cream contains concentrated compounds that are naturally occurring in the human body and are known to destroy pre-cancerous and cancerous cells. The lesion is then exposed to a high-tech laser that activates the cream (which has been metabolised in the cancerous cells).

Because the cream formulation is selectively absorbed by only abnormal cells, surrounding healthy skin is left largely unaffected – so no need to try and conceal scarring or stitches.

Mr Cranshaw says demand for PDT treatments is steadily increasing, with more Kiwis looking to avoid the invasive and unsightly surgical removal of lesions.


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