New Zealand Has The World’s Worst Rate of Melanomas

Source: The Australian, 14 Nov 2008

“NEW Zealand has edged out Australia to have the world’s worst rate of melanomas, researchers have found.

Richard Martin from the New Zealand Melanoma Unit compared the skin cancer rates between the two countries and found Kiwis had slightly higher chances of suffering the dangerous cancer.

His unpublished research found about 44 New Zealanders per 100,000 were diagnosed with melanomas each year, while in Australia the rate was about 40 per 100,000.

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, but not the most common.

“There has always been a kind of rivalry, not terribly good rivalry, between the two countries to know which is the melanoma centre of the world,” Dr Martin said.

The latest figures showed New Zealand’s rates were higher, he said.

He said both Australia and New Zealand had skin cancer rates three to four times higher than other parts of the world, because so many light-skinned people lived at warm latitudes.

New Zealand, however, was under a larger part of the hole in the ozone layer, and had less pollution than Australia, which absorbed some UV radiation, he said.

Size of Ozone Hole on 15 Nov 2008

“If you compare the latitude of Auckland in particular, with the equivalent latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, that is North Africa,” Dr Martin said.

“Think about the colour of skin of North African people compared to the pale European people living in New Zealand.”

Dr Martin said New Zealand was participating in an international trial to help develop a vaccine against melanomas.

“There are literally hundreds of vaccine trials underway around the world, including in Australia and Europe and elsewhere,” he said.

He said while New Zealand as a country had a higher rate of skin cancers than Australia, it was lower than separate areas such as Queensland.”