Skin Cancer In New Zealand, A Grim Story

An amateur cricketer has been told he is dying from skin cancer after he forgot to slap on sun cream during a game in New Zealand. His story is a salutary reminder of the dangers presented by high UV levels in New Zealand and ozone depletion, which leads to the country having the world’s highest rates of Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, higher even than Australia.  44 New Zealanders per 100,000 are diagnosed with melanomas each year (in Australia the rate is about 40 per 100,000)

Mark Jasper says he can pinpoint when he contracted the disease to the day he bowled in only a vest and got sunburned. The 41 year old says he was always very careful to apply cream but on this occasion, in 2001 in New Zealand, he forgot. “I remember coming off the pitch and my skin being blistered” he said “The game ended and I had sunburn for the first time in my life”

A couple of years later a cancerous mole was found during a medical, treatment led to remission for several years but the cancer returned and spread to vital organs. He has just been told he has, at most, a year to live. He is telling his story to publicise the dangers of sun exposure:


CRICKETER Mark Jasper is hoping his battle against terminal skin cancer will serve as a warning to others about the dangers of the sun.

Mark, 41, said he contracted the condition while playing cricket in New Zealand in 2001. Two years later he had a malignant mole removed and has been fighting cancer almost ever since.

He knows it is a losing battle — last September he was told he had between six and 12 months to live.

But he hopes his story will raise awareness about the threat of skin cancer.

Mark, who lives in Budleigh Salterton and plays cricket for Sidmouth, has scoured the world for treatment to prolong his life and extend the time he has left with wife Karen and two-year-old son Max.

“If I can hang on in there for another 12 months that is time together we probably wouldn’t have had, according to the doctors I saw last year,” he said.

“It is worse for Max and Karen than it is for me. When I die it is all over for me, but they have to carry on having lost a husband and father.”

Mark, originally from Australia, said: “I can clearly remember the game when I didn’t put the sun cream on properly, it was in 2001 when I was working in New Zealand.

“It was criminal really; every Australian knows the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of creaming up before you play, but I got careless.

“When I changed jobs I went for a medical and the doctor saw a mole he didn’t like the look of. He said I should have done something about it — I left it.

“That was my second mistake.

“I finally had it removed nearly 18 months later, and when it was tested it was found to be malignant.”

He had an operation to remove a big area of skin around where the mole had been on his shoulder and thought the problem was over.

What he didn’t know at the time was the cancer that had come into his body through a mole was sitting in his bloodstream.

For four years Mark had no problems. But after waking up with a sore arm he saw his doctor and a specialist.

As a precaution he had his lymph nodes cut out and was off work for eight weeks. After the surgery he was told there was 60-40 chance that it might come back. For the next year he was checked every three months and each time tests came back clear.

But just before Christmas in 2008 the cancer returned, although it wasn’t spotted until last summer.

“I woke up with a sore rib, went to see the doctor and was asked if I had any trauma recently which could have broken it,” he said.

“I hadn’t. In August last year I found a lump and that led to a scan which showed tumours on my liver and lungs. What was thought to be a fractured rib was actually bone cancer.”

Mark had five tumours on his liver and one on each lung. Specialists told him there was no chance of recovery, only of extending his life by months or maybe a year.

He said: “After seeing specialists in London and Manchester, I knew I had between six months and a year and there was nothing they could do for me, other than palliative care.”

He has taken part in experimental treatments and trials, including five months in San Antonio, Texas.

He said: “At first the tumours carried on growing — one reached the size of a cricket ball — then the rate of growth started slowing down.

“I had six treatments over five months before it became too expensive to continue and I came home.

“Karen was with me for three months, living in a rented apartment. We also had to buy a car to make the appointments at the hospital.

“The cricket family were very generous, helping with our expenses.

“Many members at Sidmouth offered donations, which we were grateful for, and opposition clubs like Plymouth sent in money they had collected. They have been amazing.

“The treatment in the United States has bought me time to look around and see what other trials are taking place.

“There are a couple of possibilities, one of which I could be accepted for.”

10 thoughts on “Skin Cancer In New Zealand, A Grim Story

  1. We always hear Kiwis urging everyone outdoors and then going on about the fact that their sun gives them more skin cancer!

    As a medical professional, let me point out that their cancer statistics in general belie the boasts about the “healthier lifestyle” and “great health care system”. When the sky-high rates of skin cancer are excluded, their incidence and survival rates for cancer in Australasia are comparable to those of N. America,and for some types of cancer oddly much higher.


    Colorectal cancer. Highest in the world.

    I would attribute this in part (in New Zealand at least) to the high cost of fruits and vegetables, consumption of which is of utmost importance in warding off this type of cancer. When we look at shoppers’ trolleys in the stores, the absence of fruits and vegetables in the carts is remarkable. Some have told me that it was due to their growing so many vegetables at home in gardens, but we have not seen that many backyard veggie gardens with our own eyes, except among some pensioners who still own their own homes, and I have concluded that the grocery store fruits and vegetables are simply unaffordable for many.

    • I have a suspicion that the very high rates of colorectal cancer in New Zealand are caused by poor diet. I’ve observed the same in the supermarkets, most trolleys are not full of vegetables, they’re full of canned food, alcohol, and ice cream. We need to take into account, though, that vegetable are cheaper in veg markets than in supermarkets. But even so, I don’t see evidence of a lot of fresh food being bought or consumed by many of the New Zealanders I know. Kiwis relish things like canned spaghetti, canned baked beans, and precooked sausages, which are full of processed filler and preservatives. Also, they are world class consumers of fast food, topping the charts in per capita consumption of McDonalds and KFC.

      I haven’t seen these fabled home gardens in abundance either. There are some, but certainly not many, at least not in Auckland, Christchurch, or Wellington, which is where most New Zealanders live. A couple of my New Zealand relatives grow some of their food, and even make jams and things, but both persons are very elderly and one lives on a large plot in a small town. Anyway, I don’t imagine the majority Aucklanders have enough space with full sun to grow their own vegetables. As an aside, I live in a predominantly Pasifika community, and I’ve observed my neighbours seem to buy quite a lot of fruits and vegetables. It’s possible other foods in their diet contribute to weight gain and health problems. Canned corned beef is an important staple, for example, as is the ubiquitous fast food.

      I am dismayed by the number of people saying to me, as person with olive skin, that “you’re lucky, you don’t need sunscreen.” That so not true, and a dangerous attitude to live by. Lighter skin people may burn more quickly than I do, but I still burn easily if I’m not careful, so the difference is actually quite small. Many, many New Zealanders are of mixed Maori heritage, and an increasing number with mixed Asian heritage, and they need to be better educated about staying safe in the sun. Everyone’s skin, no matter the colour, will suffer damage with repeated exposure.

      • You can see the poor diet and destructive drinking habits at work when you look at the people closely. So many Kiwis are hideously ugly and dishevelled. Someone on this website once said that Kiwis are the chavs of the UK without the middle classes around.

        It is nice to live in Europe where most people take care of their appearance and you actually see attractive people around. The only aesthetically beautiful thing in New Zealand was the landscape. However, other places in the world are equally or more beautiful. The people and buildings have very little maintenance.

        • New Zealand has some nice scenery, but by no means everywhere in the country. After travelling all over the country, up, down, and across, I have to say, from photos at least, I find the rural and coastal scenery in many parts of the UK and Ireland more appealing. There are hardly any lovely buildings in New Zealand, and to me that takes away a great deal of the charm The wilder parts of New Zealand are interesting, but are no more beautiful, and in many cases not as spectacular, as what you will find in Chile or Scotland, to name a few places.
          The wilder parts of New Zealand are hardly pristine, considering they’re overrun with invasive, destructive animal species, 1080 poison, and a severely decimated native bird population. The only reason parts of the Southern Alps are so wild and remote is that the terrain is too steep and mountainous to turn into a dairy farm. New Zealand, after all, is one of the most deforested of countries. Only about 24% of the native forest is left (including the increasing coastal mangroves) in a country with just over 4 million people. To call this place pristine is almost criminal. I’m sure if New Zealanders, and the uninformed greater public didn’t believe this BS, maybe more would be done to save what’s left.

          If you’re keen to expose yourself to strong ultraviolet sun, maybe skip New Zealand and go to Chile. Patagonia is further south, wilder, more spectacular, has an abundance of native wildlife and flora, and just as important, the food is much, much better. And the people are friendly to you even if you’re not a tourist. And try to go before the New Zealand dairy industry wrecks Chile’s lovely land too.

  2. There are many oddly shaped, differently coloured and large moles, popping up with some regularity on my little son, after a few years in the New Zealand primary schools. All over any exposed parts of his body. I use hats and high SPF creams, but these do not seem to do much. Kiwis compulsively seek the outdoors, I think, because their houses are so dreadful. They are tiny, cold and moldy inside, and truly there is nothing else to do here but outdoor sports, unfortunately. There is nothing else to their culture but that. Counting the days until we can leave!

    From the health article in one of your links, “Bagshaw said she was pleased with the recommendations in the report, but concerned it was not publicly announced or published by the Ministry of Health. “It was just quietly put on the ministry’s website, no fanfare because they don’t want to put money into it,” she said. “That’s really sad. They have put money into all sorts of other things, but not young people”.

    And from today’s headlines, “New Zealand women had the second-highest rates of cancer in the world at 287 new cases a year”. This is not due to “better reporting”, as they claim. Doctor friends tell me discreetly that it is due to the fact that there are simply many, many cancer cases, with a high percentage of rarer ones.

    One reason for this is because they discourage the less than very sick at the medical clinics. They can only afford to run basic tests in this health system, and unless you are almost dying, with some very obvious and visible malady, they will not explore symptoms because of their desperate need to rationalise care.
    The weary, overworked medical personnel, with their high use of locum foreigners and staff turnover, have disapproving attitudes and often just imply that you are whinging and need to “harden up” in order to avoid having to deal with you and the paperwork you might generate for them.

    Or, they simply offer endless “watching” of symptoms until they become acute–and serious. These factors contribute to discouraging people from reporting symptoms early before they evolve into an irreversible condition.

    Health care is NOT free here. That is a myth! You DO need to obtain private insurance in New Zealand if you expect a decent level of care corresponding to any First World system such as in UK, Germany, France, USA or Canada that you may have been accustomed to.

    With the unaffordable housing and generally high cost of living, private insurance is a luxury many do not have here in so-called Godzone. Even when you do manage to secure a policy, the number of specialists is limited. The brain drain means that many talented people in the medical field flee to other countries where they can grow their skills.

    When you are stuck in New Zealand, you are frighteningly stuck.

  3. The sun is bad here, and I know even people from the subcontinent who r accustomed to sun in their own country have been caused health problems. Either from being in it or staying too much out of it to avoid the skin problems and get vitamin D deficienty. A balance is challenging. Here is a link -!

    Many of the women – who come from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan – said they could not tolerate New Zealand’s intense, glaring sun.

    “They say the sun is too strong,” says Ms von Hurst. Some of the women complained of rashes and itchy skin from sun exposure, and said their skin burned quite easily here.

    One Auckland GP reported to her anecdotally that many of her Indian women patients aged over 60 had developed some form of auto-immune disease, from lupus to rheumatoid arthritis.

  4. People in other countries have not seen what melanomas can grow to look like here. They are not just odd-looking moles in the Antipodes, and can grow very large:

  5. It is not uncommon to see people walking around in public with these on face, scalp, and arms, some of them quite sickening:

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