New Zealand overtakes Australia with worst rate for melanomas

March 30, 2016

A research published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane has found that while Australia’s melanoma rates have been declining since 2005, New Zealand’s rates are still increasing and are not expected to start falling until about 2017.The study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia compared the rates of invasive melanoma the most fatal form of skin cancer in populations across Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, and the Caucasian population of the United States, from 1982 to 2011. Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer, after prostate, breast and colorectal in New Zealand with close to 500 people reportedly die of melanoma each year which accounts for one in 10 cancer cases.Overall, the New Zealand rate nearly doubled between 1982 and 2011.With cases currently running at about 51 per 100,000 people, New Zealanders are more than twice as likely to get melanoma as the British according to statistics available yet the population is less than ten per cent of Britain.Study head Professor David Whiteman said that Kiwis have become more sun smart, more prevention work could be done, and for many older New Zealanders the damage has already been done.

Professor Whiteman, who led the study, attributed the falling rates to prevention campaigns run since the 1980s.”Australians have become more ‘sun smart’ as they have become more aware of the dangers of melanoma and other skin cancers,” he said.”Schools, workplaces and childcare centres have also introduced measures to decrease exposure to harmful UV radiation.”Unfortunately, rates of melanoma are still increasing in people over the age of about 50.”This is probably because many older people had already sustained sun damage before the prevention campaigns were introduced, and those melanomas are only appearing now, many decades after the cancer causing exposure to sunlight occurred.”The study showed New Zealand now had the highest rates of the skin cancer in the world showing about 50 cases per 100,000 people in 2011.Researchers found that invasive melanoma rates in Australia increased from about 30 cases per 100,000 people in 1982, and peaked at nearly 49 cases per 100,000 people in 2005.The rates then declined to about 48 cases per 100,000 people in 2011.However, the overall number of invasive melanomas diagnosed in Australia are still rising because of the ageing Australian population and overall population growth.Professor Whiteman said diagnosis numbers in Australia were expected to increase from 11,162 cases per year from 2007 – 2011, to 12,283 cases per year from 2012-2016.”The picture in Australia at the moment is mixed.

While it’s good news that average melanoma rates have started to fall, the fact that the actual number of cases is still rising is bad news.”Australia’s melanoma rates are predicted to keep falling to about 41 cases per 100,000 people in 2031.New Zealand’s rates are expected to start declining from about 2017 onwards and reach approximately 46 cases per 100,000 people by 2031. According to experts definition, Melanomas are a cancerous growth caused by DNA damage to the skin, usually from the ultraviolet rays of the sun or a tanning bed. This DNA damage mutates skin cells and causes them to multiply rapidly, forming malignant tumours. If found early, melanomas are almost always curable. If not, things can get really worse.Melanomas are not the most common form of skin cancer, but they kill the most people according to studies conducted in different parts of the world.New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of melanomas in the world.Anyone can get melanomas, but certain people are more at risk.Lighter skinned races, who sunburn easily, are the most likely of developing melanomas. While they do occur in children, those aged over 45 are the most at risk. Males are more at risk of melanomas, but only slightly.These risk factors are associated with regular melanomas, certain rare melanomas are a risk for everyone.If detected early, melanomas are almost always curable by surgery. If not, the cancer can quickly advance to other parts of the body, where it becomes harder to treat and possibly catastrophic.

Contador Harrison