Skin Cancer is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand. You can reduce the risk of developing skin cancer by using SPF50+ sunscreen, seeking shade, wearing SunSmart clothing and having a regular skin cancer check by a doctor skilled in dermoscopy. Most skin cancers can be cured with early diagnosis and treatment. The sooner skin cancers are detected, the simpler the treatment.
Over 4,000 people are diagnosed with Melanoma in New Zealand every year - that's around 11 every day. Malignant melanoma (often shortened to just 'melanoma') is a potentially fatal skin cancer that can be cured in most cases if it is diagnosed and treated early. Therefore, regular checking of the skin surface is essential. Melanoma is the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of the skin's pigment cells (tanning cells). Melanoma can develop as a new mole or from an existing mole.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Over 100 people die of squamous cell carcinoma every year in New Zealand. Like Melanoma, if diagnosed and treated early, Squamous Cell Carcinoma can usually be cured. This skin cancer is usually found on sun-exposed parts of the skin surface. It is more common in people over 40. It looks like a crusty, non-healing sore and can be tender. Sometimes it just looks like a thickened area. Squamous Cell Carcinoma can often grow very rapidly.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
It is the most common skin cancer (about three quarters of all skin cancers). There are several different types of Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). Some look like a small raised smooth lump, others like a non-healing sore, and yet others look like a pink, white or red patch, and can be quite difficult to see. BCC is the least dangerous type of skin cancer and is almost never a threat to life, but it still requires treatment. This is because they enlarge over time. However, with early detection comes a simpler surgery, where skin grafts are not needed. BCC can spread locally into muscles, bone and nerves, or rarely spreads to lymph nodes. Occasionally it may result in loss of eyes, ears or noses.
An Actinic Keratosis (also known as a solar keratosis) is a lesion found on sun-damaged skin. They are caused by cumulative sun exposure over many years so are more common in older people.
Read more - Actinic Keratoses
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is a type of skin cancer. BCC is a non-melanoma skin cancer and the most common type of all skin cancers.
Read more - BCC
Cryosurgery is the freezing of selected tissues, in this case by the use of the cryogun.
Read more - Cryosurgery
A cream for the treatment of Superficial Basal Cell Cancer. Imiquimod cream helps your body’s own immune system produce natural substances which help fight your BCC.
Read more - Imiquimod cream
Looking After Your Skin
It is essential to protect your skin from UV protection and monitor your sun exposure.
Read more - Sunsmart tips
Melanoma is a skin cancer that develops from melanocytes (pigment cells) in the skin. If detected early most melanomas are curable. If it is not caught in the early stages it can be life threatening.
Read more - Melanoma
This information sheet outlines the range of treatment options available for Melanoma.
Read more - Melanoma treatment
Patient Surgery After-Care
Key information from the doctors at Molecheck so you can look after yourself following surgery.
Read more - After care
Seborrhoeic Keratosis are very common, harmless skin lesions. The cause is unknown but they often run in families. Some people develop large numbers of them. They usually do not cause symptoms but can occasionally itch, bleed or catch on clothing.
Read more - Seborrhoeic Keratosis
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC is a type of skin cancer. SCC is a non-melanoma skin cancer and the second most common skin cancer in New Zealand.
Read more - SCC
Sun Protection and Sunscreen
Apart from causing skin cancer, too much sun also damages the skin cells causing wrinkles, freckles, thinning of the skin and dilated blood vessels. Sun protection is crucial for everybody. So protect yourself - and your loved ones - from the sun by applying an SPF50+ sunscreen (click here to see how to apply sunscreen).
However, sunscreens are not perfect. Sun protection should always start with avoiding peak sun hours and dressing sensibly. Try to keep in the shade where possible. Remember that when you are near sand, snow or water or at high altitude, your risk of skin cancer is higher due to extra ultraviolet radiation. If you are in the sun, remember to wear UV protective sunglasses.
For peace of mind a regular skin cancer check by a doctor skilled in dermoscopy is strongly recommended.
Sunscreen should be used to decrease exposure to UV radiation, not to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun. Molecheck recommends the use of broad spectrum SPF50+ sunscreen.
Read more - sunscreen
Vitamin B3 (nicotinamide)
Australian Researchers have recently released data revealing Nicotinamide; a form of vitamin B3, reduces the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer and a skin cancer precursor – actinic keratosis.
Read more - Vitamin B3
Vitamin D and the Sun
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones. You get vitamin D from sunlight and from your diet, or from supplements. By enjoying the sun sensibly, it is possible for everyone to make enough vitamin D while not increasing the risk of skin cancer.
For daylight-saving months in New Zealand, most people should be able to achieve satisfactory vitamin D levels through incidental outdoor UV exposure (such as a daily walk) before 10am and after 4pm. Everybody should try and avoid sun exposure at peak UV times, because of the skin cancer risk and the skin damaging effects. Between September and April, sun protection (shade, cover-up clothing and hats, sunscreen, sunglasses) is recommended, especially between 10 am and 5 pm approximately. Between May and August, sun protection is generally not required unless at high altitudes or near highly reflective surfaces, such as snow or water - during this time activity such as a day time walk is recommended for vitamin D synthesis.
The amount of time you need in the sun to make enough vitamin D varies from person to person. But the amount of sun needed to make enough vitamin D is always less than the high amounts that cause tanning or sunburn. Sunburn greatly increases the risk of skin cancer.