Christmas and the holiday season have rolled around again: a time to relax and enjoy – but also to remain vigilant. Ironically, it is too often the fun we have, exposing our skin in the beautiful New Zealand summer sun, that directly contributes to the development of skin cancer.
IN SPITE OF THE ONGOING CAMPAIGNS AND EDUCATION ABOUT THIS LIFE-THREATENING, YET LARGELY PREVENTABLE CONDITION, NEW ZEALAND STILL HAS ALARMING RATES OF SKIN CANCER, INCLUDING MELANOMA. According to the Cancer Society of New Zealand, the total number of new melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer cases contributes to around 80 percent of all new cancers each year.
OUR SKIN CANCER RATES ARE STILL AMONG THE HIGHEST IN THE WORLD, DUE TO A NUMBER OF FACTORS: the particularly high levels of UV radiation during the daylight saving months, low ozone levels over our country, our sun- seeking lifestyle, and a high proportion of people with fair skin. In addition, there are still alarming numbers of people
using sunbeds to accelerate tanning. This practice dramatically increases the chance of developing skin cancer.
DO YOU HAVE YOUR SKIN CHECKED ANNUALLY? This one appointment really could change, or even save, your life. Looking for any changes to your current sunspots is vital, as is taking note of new freckles or moles. Seek professional advice if a sunspot does not heal after you bump or scrape it; if it looks different to other spots you have; if it has changed in size, thickness, shape or colour; or has started to bleed.
WHERE SHOULD YOU GO FOR YOUR ANNUAL CHECK? At the Da Vinci Clinic, our dermatology and plastic surgery team specialise in the comprehensive care of skin, from early detection and diagnosis of problems, through analysis and treatment, to reaching the optimal cosmetic result. You will also receive sensible advice on prevention, including the use of an active form of Vitamin B3 (Nicotanimide), which has proven results in reducing skin cancers.
SKIN CANCER SURGERY INVOLVES EXCISION OF THE CANCER, FOLLOWING WHICH YOUR WOUND IS REPAIRED. The specimen is then sent to the laboratory and processed over a number of days. Further surgery may be required if your cancer is not completely removed on the first occasion. Should you require a reconstructive closure, choosing a clinic that has a plastic surgeon on hand will ensure the best aesthetic outcome possible. Smaller skin cancers translate to smaller scars: another reason why early detection is important.
IF A SKIN CANCER GOES UNDETECTED AND IS ALLOWED TO GROW, the eventual scar will be bigger. The risk of spread will also be higher, which, in the case of melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), can be lethal. So, with a long, hot summer ahead, do your skin a favour and cover it up. It could save your life.