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New Zealand melanoma rates rising at 7.5% a year

Media Release – Embargoed until Wednesday 15th November 2006

Regional scorecard highlights melanoma hotspots

New Zealand melanoma rates rising at 7.5% a year

Auckland 15th November 2006 – Melanoma rates across New Zealand continue to rise according to this year’s regional Melanoma Scorecard developed by MoleMap. Over the last ten years melanoma rates have grown at 7.5% every year maintaining the country’s position as having the highest incidence of invasive melanoma per head in the world.

Regional data from the New Zealand Health Information Service (NZHIS) on melanoma diagnoses and related deaths shows a wide variation in melanoma rates across the regions with Northland, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki showing the highest rates. Tairawhiti, Bay of Plenty and the West Coast of the South Island show the greatest average increases ranging from 18-20% each year. Central North Island and Otago regions show relatively small increases of around 1%.

23% more men in the Northland DHB region were diagnosed with melanoma than women. In South Canterbury region the opposite is true with around 21% more women diagnosed. Around one third of those diagnosed with melanoma are under 50, and the dominant age sector is the 50-75 age group, accounting for almost half the overall incidence.

MoleMap CEO, Adrian Bowling said although some regional increases were starting from a very low base, it was clear that reported melanoma incidence is on the rise. “High incidence rates may not necessarily be the result of a lack of awareness. In some regions we know high awareness has been realised through well known local people experiencing melanoma. These communities have shown huge growth in melanoma diagnoses which may be the result of people actively managing the problem and detecting it earlier.”

“Melanoma is still the most likely cancer to kill people under 40 and the damage is often done earlier in life. The Scorecard indicates some population segments are not as active at preventing melanoma and may be unaware of the ferocity and progressive nature of this deadly cancer.”

“Early detection and treatment of melanoma improves the chance of survival. Regular monitoring of changes to the skin and existing moles is a critical step to reducing melanoma deaths. Those with numerous moles or atypical (funny-looking) moles, or a personal or family history, should consider an annual screening examination with an expert in skin cancer.”

Ends

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