New Zealand has the world's highest rate of the deadliest form of skin cancer, says a new study. Researchers from Brisbane's QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute found that New Zealand had passed Australia for the highest per capita rate of the invasive form of cancer.
Melanoma rate in Australia has been declining since 2005 while New Zealand's has been on the rise. The researchers have predicted that the rates would keep growing until at least 2017.
‘New Zealand has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with the latest figures showing about 50 cases per 100,000 people.’
The study compared the frequency of the skin cancer over the three decades in six countries, also including Britain, Sweden, Norway and the United States. New Zealand's rate of invasive melanoma nearly doubled from 1982 to 2011, while Australia's peaked in 2005.
The rise in the rates of skin cancer in New Zealand is due to lack of commitment from the government to tackle the problem for more than a decade, said melanoma experts. Now they have asked the government to take swift action.
The University of Otago Associate Professor Tony Reeder said, "An example of political failure had been a lack of action on banning sunbeds. In stark contrast, Australia acted decisively to protect its population by implementing a comprehensive ban."
Professor David Whiteman, one of the study's authors, said while New Zealanders had become more sun smart more could be done to prevent skin cancer.
The government was urged to invest more into funding melanoma prevention over the coming years in limiting increasing treatment costs, said Whiteman in a report published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
The findings predicted New Zealand would soon see a decline in rates. "We think the main reason why rates in Australia and we hope New Zealand, will decline before the other populations are that both countries have put a huge effort into primary prevention campaigns," said Prof Whiteman.
Although the rates of melanoma would be declining soon, the number of total cases would be on the rise because of an aging population.
"Unfortunately for older New Zealanders alive today, most will have already sustained significant amounts of sun damage before the prevention campaigns were introduced," he said.