Top Dermatologist Says Kiwi Men Complacent About Skin Cancer

29 November 2010, 11:38AM

One of New Zealand’s leading dermatologists says Kiwi men are risking their lives by waiting too long to act after becoming concerned about a mole or lesion.

Skin cancer specialist and MoleMap medical director, Dr Mark Gray, says new patient research* shows that one in five men (20%) waited at least six months to act on a lesion of concern, with 5% taking up to a year.

MoleMap is a melanoma surveillance and diagnostic service which combines modern technologies with an expert dermatologist’s diagnosis to screen for melanoma.

Dr Gray says the new survey highlights just how many men delay seeking medical advice for lesions of concern and how this can ultimately result in a worse prognosis if the lesion is in fact a skin cancer.
“Kiwis need to ensure they visit a specialist as soon as they find a mole or lesion of concern as we’ve found that more than one in five of these consultations results in a diagnosis of skin cancer.”

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand and affects around 60,000 Kiwis a year with around 250 dying from the disease annually.

“Melanoma is often completely without symptoms. Left untreated, in severe cases the cancer can progress to other areas of the body such as the brain, lymph nodes, lungs and liver,” says Dr Gray.

The survey also showed that women were more than twice as likely (50%) than men to act in the first month of becoming concerned about a lesion with one third (33%) taking between one and five months.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of following your instincts and having a mole of concern checked as soon as you discover it, as well as booking yourself in for a general skin screening every year,” says Dr Gray.
The results of the MoleMap survey are supported by previous research** which revealed that more than half of Kiwis (52%) had never had a mole or lesion checked, yet nearly a quarter (24%) have had a mole removed because of concerns about skin cancer.

The research also showed that New Zealand men are ignoring sun safety messages and are at greatest risk of skin cancer with more than one in four (27%) saying they rarely or never use a sunscreen.

With the largest database of lesions in the world at over 2.5 million, MoleMap data is used for international studies and educational programmes at the world-leading Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center in the United States and at New York University.