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Kiwi companies collaborating to combat skin cancer

MEDIA RELEASE 27 March 2019

Sizzling summer sees Kiwi companies collaborating to combat skin cancer

This summer saw record-breaking temperatures and the introduction of a new service helping Kiwis stay on top of their skin health.

As numerous New Zealand towns set record high temperature records, a new collaboration between New Zealand healthcare organisations was introduced making it even easier for Kiwis to get moles and skin spots checked.

And it can now be as simple as walking into a pharmacy and having a pharmacist capture photographs of your skin while waiting for your prescription. Highly magnified images are then sent for an assessment by Skin Institute’s skin cancer doctors with digital reports sent directly back to the customer.

New Zealand pharmacies, including Unichem and Life Pharmacy, Skin Institute and Firstcheck partnered to offer the service in certain pharmacies over summer and the newly published results have people excited about the potential of the new digital service to help combat New Zealand’s skin cancer burden.

Results just released have shown the valuable place of such a skin screening service in New Zealand.

1) 94% of those checked had waited months or years before they went to get their suspicious lesion checked (20% and 74% respectively) - even though the public health message is that early detection of skin cancer is key.

2) Results also showed that 73% of those using the service had not a professional full body skin check in over five years or at all.

3) 18% of lesions required follow-up appointments.

4) 82% of lesions were able to be confirmed as benign common harmless skin spots like moles (25%), solar lentigo (16%) and seborrheic keratosis (26%), enabling successful triage of benign lesions and enabling unnecessary doctor’s appointments to be averted.

5) 68% of lesions were reported as being greater than 5mm.

6) Customer age range spanned from 21 to 84 with an average age of 44.

7) The average time taken for the customer to later receive the digital report directly from Skin Institute was ‘same day’ at just 9 hours and 50 minutes.

The results follow new Australasian published research[1] that the vast majority[2] of melanomas are self-detected. The study showed that 85.4% of melanomas were selfdetected by the patient - or by a family or friend (62.7% and 22.7%, respectively). Doctors first detected only 14.6% of all melanomas.

Ministry of Health publications also confirm that most skin checks in New Zealand involve a patient pointing out a spot to their GP to ask if it’s okay or not.[3]

Leading Australian researchers[4] have also just declared that the field focusing on the early detection of melanoma is moving strongly towards innovative surveillance which includes self-imaging by consumers as part of their skin self-examinations.

These study findings and recent research highlight the opportunities for health technologies to improve access to health services to help address our unenviable skin cancer statistics and to stem the burden of melanoma on the New Zealand population in terms of morbidity, mortality and costs.

This new collaboration is another way of accessing doctors’ advice – Skin Institute’s diagnostic expertise - and improving access to skin cancer screening in an efficient and cost-effective way. Skin Institute is well-recognized for its expertise in skin cancer and dermatology with 17 specialist clinics throughout New Zealand. Firstcheck provides access to this expertise regardless of location.

Firstcheck is providing the technology behind the service and the collaboration comes as a big boost to the New Zealand health technology company after announcing a recent partnership across the Tasman with a leading Australian life insurance company, TAL.

Firstcheck’s CEO, Hayden Laird, says “current skin cancer screening guidelines[5] expect us to get to know our own skin and to consult a doctor about new, changing or abnormal lesions”.

Andrew Gaudin, Chief Executive of Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, says that “pharmacists are the health professional we see most often, and by offering this service in a community pharmacy we can reach more patients who may not otherwise have their skin checked. We want to improve patient access to health care services to help keep New Zealanders well and out of hospital, and this one component towards early detection and treatment.”

Lauren Kilkolly, Professional Services Manager at Green Cross Health says the ‘patient delay’ (the amount of time it takes for patients to seek medical advice about suspicious skin lesions) is far too long[7] and that it is the key determinant of the health outcome. With melanoma, patient delay can be the difference between life and death with early detection crucial to reducing the impact of skin cancer”.

The Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand and Green Cross Health encourage community pharmacies to help raise awareness of the importance of checking your skin and are delighted that more skin check services can be accessed across our sun kissed country.

Skin cancer is, after all, New Zealand’s most common cancer, but it is also one of the most easily detectable and preventable.

“New technology and new research is suggesting there is reason to be focusing more on secondary prevention (early detection) and promoting education around self-skin checks and supporting that practice with new technology making skin checks more accessible while triaging appropriately” says Laird.

Skin Institute’s CEO, Jenni Ryan says “Skin Institute is exploring how best to complement its core in-clinic services to help even more people get suspicious moles checked – and to help ensure skin cancers are detected early. At the moment we’re only able to help those walking through our door – but of course skin cancer is a much bigger problem than that. Too few Kiwis are getting skin checks for all sorts of reasons. By making spot checks convenient and affordable, we are improving access to important health care services to help make a real difference.”


About the service:
The digital health service allows photos of skin spots and moles to taken at the pharmacy on behalf of the customer and uploaded directly to a skin cancer doctor at Skin Institute for assessment, making for a convenient and accessible way to get suspicious spots checked.

Other key information regarding self skin checks:

So what should you be checking your skin for?
Ugly ducklings![8] Most moles and spots on your body are the same or are similar-looking to each other. Compare your spots with other spots on your body. If any mole or spot stands out or looks noticeably different from that of surrounding spots, it is the "Ugly Duckling" an should be checked.

The Skin Cancer College of Australasia9 recommends that you "SCAN" your skin looking for spots or moles that are:
- SORE - A spot which is sore (scaly, itchy, bleeding or tender) and doesn't heal within 6 weeks
- CHANGING - In appearance (size, shape, colour or texture).
- ABNORMAL - Looks different, feels different, or stands out when compared to other spots and moles
- NEW - Spots that have appeared recently


1 Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, August 2018 -
2 See the ‘Discussion’ section of the Study - paragraph 2 of the Discussion section (lines 4 and 5)
3 “Most skin examinations were performed to examine a skin lesion brought to the doctor’s attention by the patient.” Para 28: National Screening Advisory Committee, 2010. Prevalence of Opportunistic Melanoma Screening in New Zealand: A report for the National Screening Advisory Committee, Ministry of Health. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
4 Janda M, Soyer H, P: Using Advances in Skin Imaging Technology and Genomics for the Early Detection and Prevention of Melanoma. Dermatology 2019;235:1-3. doi: 10.1159/000493260. “Focusing on the early detection of melanoma the field is moving strongly towards innovative surveillance using total-body 3-dimensional (3D) photography and sequential digital dermoscopy imaging, supported with periodic imaging by consumers as part of their skin self-examinations (SSE), alongside traditional clinical skin examinations.”
5 Cancer Council Australia ( “Cancer Council Australia encourages people to become familiar with their skin, including skin not normally exposed to the sun, and consult a doctor if they notice any change in shape, colour or size of a lesion, or the development of a new lesion.”
6 Cancer Council Australia ( “Early detection through skin self-examination potentially reduces the risk of advanced melanoma by 63% through early detection of thinner lesions. It is also associated with increased detection of 1mm thick lesions, which have a high 95% five-year survival.” (Referencing: “Performing self-skin examinations was strongly associated with early diagnosis” (
7 Refer to the study in Footnote 1 above: “Although they initially selfidentified their abnormal lesion, there was a delay of seven months or more (to a maximum of 66 months) before getting a diagnosis … predominantly due to patient delay in bringing the abnormal lesion to a doctor’s attention. For fastergrowing melanomas, this sometime lengthy delay by the patient could have a significant impact on both its management and prognosis.”
“Patients play a critically important role in the detection of skin cancer[6] – and are effectively the ‘first line of defence’ against this disease.”

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