In New Zealand, 80% of new cancers reported every year are melanoma, or skin cancer. Two thousand, five hundred new melanoma cases are diagnosed in New Zealand every year.
New Zealand has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, and Australia is very similar. However, the death rate for melanoma is lower than for some other countries because New Zealand spends such a lot of money on treating it. That’s $55m a year! The only country in the world that spends more on skin cancer is Sweden.
The reason why New Zealand has such a high rate of skin cancer is because, even though it often feels cool, the levels of UV radiation are very high in the summer. In the atmosphere, there is a layer of ozone that filters out UV radiation from the sun. In the springtime, holes develop in the ozone above the North Pole and the South Pole. The reason both New Zealand and Sweden struggle with skin cancer is because they are under these holes in the ozone layer.
For this reason, it is not a good idea to sunbathe in New Zealand, and many New Zealanders will wear rash shirts, long shorts and hats to the beach. The best times to go to the beach are early morning or evening. You should get your skin checked by a doctor once a year.
Melanomas can be difficult to spot, but luckily Australian researchers have developed a blood test that can detect the early stages of melanoma. This could be very useful for New Zealanders, Australians and Swedes in the future.
cancer: a malignant disease caused by uncontrolled growth of cells.
rate: a ratio often expressed over time. For example: “One in three people,” or “Nine people every year.”
radiation: the effect felt by light or heat.
ozone: a chemical that exists in the atmosphere.