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The Truth About Maori And Skin Cancer

14 November 2000

There are many myths that people with olive skin promote regarding sunburn, and we've all heard them and probably used them in our lifetimes says Associate Minister of Maori Affairs and Health Tariana Turia says.

"In the past many Maori and others with olive or brown skin would have seen a National Hat Day as something they didn't need to concern themselves with. I would urge us all to reconsider our assumptions about this given the ferocity of the sun in New Zealand over the spring and summer months.

In a Sun Protection Research Report prepared for the Health Sponsorship Council, the sun safety behaviour amongst olive skinned people confirmed our unwarranted and relaxed attitude to 'SunSmart' behaviour.

"The research showed that olive skinned people have different attitudes and behaviours towards the sun that fairer people, and are more likely to say they like to get a tan. It is concerning that we are reaching for the coconut oil rather than the sublock.

"We are also more likely to seek the sun out, rather than diving under the nearest shade, and less likely to cover up with clothes, even when we do remember the sunblock, it is after a prolonged time out in the sun.

"It may seem odd for many people with olive skin that in the hot months of spring and summer even we should be wearing hats when we go outside. We must be vigilante and ensure that our tamariki and mokopuna all wear sunhats. With 200 people dying from melanoma each year, a largely preventable and curable disease if caught early it is a reality for all in New Zealand.

"So next time you hear the message to 'cover up and slap on the sunblock' remember that means you too", says Tariana Turia.


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