New Zealand Now the Capital of Skin Cancer

Elouise Spencer - 13 September 2018

Up until recently, it was Australia that had the highest rate of melanoma skin cancer in the world. Now, neighbouring New Zealand has overtaken Australia, though it is certainly not something that the Kiwis will be celebrating. Recent statistics released have revealed shocking statistics; there are an average of 50 cases of melanoma skin cancer in New Zealand for every 100,000 residents. This is in comparison to Australia, which still has a staggering 48 cases per 100,000 residents.

The most telling statistic of all, however, is that in New Zealand these cases are increasing annually, which is the reason for the country overtaking Australia. Meanwhile, Australian statistics are on the decline, which is an anomaly that certainly deserves closer inspection. Surely the UV levels in the two countries are not changing, so what is the cause of this sudden shift in the situation?

Skin Cancer Prevention

As already said, it is natural UV that is the primary risk when dealing with melanoma based skin cancer. Simply put; too much time in sunlight that has high UV levels is bad news. In New Zealand and Australia the UV levels are off the charts, so much so that the region is leagues ahead of every other country in the world. Combine this with the New Zealand and Australian outdoor lifestyles, and what you have is a recipe for disaster.

But then, it can’t be expected that residents simply sit inside all day, even if watching TV or playing at a casino is so much fun. Going outdoors and facing the UV sunlight is inevitably going to happen, especially when you consider how good the weather is in this part of the world.

In response, Australia was quick to adopt preventative measures that helped defend against harmful sunlight. The most notable was a policy adopted by schools across the country, simply telling children; “no hat, no play.” This was a firm stance stating that school children that did not have adequate protection from the sun were not allowed to participate in outdoor sports. A heavy-handed approach, perhaps, but the results speak for themselves.

New Zealand Lags Behind

New Zealand on the other hand, was not so quick to adopt policies of the same nature. According

to a study performed by Professor David Whiteman, a long time Kiwi resident, steps taken by the government have been fragmented at best, and outright lacking at worst. Whiteman stated that most of the work in the department has fallen to charity organisations, most of which get limited government funding, and many of which get none at all.

Whiteman went on to declare that the New Zealand health minister should have stepped up and taken a firm stance on the situation long ago, and that the lack of action has been costing lives. Harsh words, but it can’t help be thought that if similar policies to Australia had been adopted, that the country would perhaps now not have the highest skin cancer rates globally.

Health Care Benefits

Of course it is not all bad news for Kiwis. It so happens that although the skin cancer rates in the country are sky high, that the health care systems are likewise some of the best in the world. You are less likely to die from the affliction in New Zealand than in many other countries, given that health care spending in the country on skin cancer alone sits at around $55 million annually. This is second only to Sweden.

If looking at the broader picture, total Kiwi spending on health is the majority of government expenditure, at a stunning total of $4 billion. This, combined with the fact that melanoma skin cancer is the easiest to cure, assuming that it is caught soon enough, means that it is more survivable than ever before. Though, once again, stronger preventative measures would certainly not go amiss.

So as it stands, it is up to Kiwis to take their own preventative measures in order to avoid harmful sunlight that can sometimes become deadly. A simple hat goes a long way to keeping deadly UV rays at bay, and one should certainly not be spending any time outdoors without sunscreen. Which is to say; an outdoor lifestyle need not be abandoned, as long as steps are taken to keep safe.

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