Kiwi Youths Hooked to Tan Despite Skin Cancer Threat

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 13 2007 7:37 PM

A survey of nearly 300 under-30s has shown that nearly three quarters have sunburnt themselves at some time over the past two years.

Fifty eight percent said it happened once or twice, but nearly one in five admitted to regularly getting burnt.

The national survey conducted by MoleMap and independent research company TNS also discovered while 63 per cent were unlikely to sunbathe without using sunscreen, that figure dropped to 54 per cent among 15-to-19-year-olds.

It showed that the tanned looked is attractive to over half - 57 per cent - of young New Zealanders, and more so among 15-to-19 year old females - 67 per cent.

The survey showed the tanned look was attractive to the majority of people questioned and many were uncontrolled in trying to achieve that look despite figures showing over 300 people die every year from skin cancer.

MoleMap chief executive Adrian Bowling said the research followed an audit that showed melanoma were being detected at about 20 times the rate that would be expected for average New Zealanders.

"It is widely acknowledged that the two leading causes of melanoma are genetics and overexposure to the sun's rays, especially in our younger years," the NZPA quoted Bowling, as saying.

He said that he suspected part of the reason behind teen attitudes was a view that melanoma was an "old person's" disease, with detection most common among 40 and 50-year-olds.

However, 80 to 90 per cent of sun-related damage leading to melanoma occurred before the age of 18, he added.

Bowling said that in opposition to popular belief, people with dark skin were not immune from the sun's harmful rays.

"The longer you stay in the sun, the greater your risk of getting skin cancer, regardless of skin colour," he said.

He recommended regularly self-checking skin for changes and booking an annual skin examination with a medical professional.