Tauranga's ageing population is contributing to high melanoma rates in the region, a Bay of Plenty health worker warns.
Melanoma was the most common type of cancer in males aged 25 to 44 years, and the second most common cancer for females in that age group, Melanie Desmarais of Cancer Society Tauranga told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.
According to the Ministry of Health, 70 per cent of melanoma cases occur in those aged over 50.
"There is a large retired population in the area which are in that age group ... and a lot of ex-farmers who would have spent lots of time outdoors," Mrs Desmarais said.
Latest available figures for the Bay of Plenty show 34 people died from melanoma in 2008, 23 of whom were male. There were also 162 people diagnosed with the disease in the region that year.
Mrs Desmarais said the Bay lifestyle only added to the problematic melanoma rates.
"We have a lovely coastline here and people like to be outdoors and enjoy it. People need to be sunsmart and protect themselves - follow the 'slip, slop, slap' message," she said.
Melanoma Foundation interim chief executive Kylie Williams said too many New Zealanders had the wrong attitude when it came to the "sunny outdoors".
"New Zealand has the highest rates of melanoma in the world and we have the most blase attitude ... to sun protection - especially in men and teenagers."
An independent survey showing fewer than one in 10 Kiwi men wore sunscreen was bitterly disappointing for the organisation.
"We have so many Kiwi males who have outdoor jobs ... and put themselves at risk every day."
The strike rate for melanoma, which kills about 300 Kiwis every year, was also higher in men than women, Mrs Williams said.
"It is the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand and ... in males aged 25 to 44 years it is the most common cancer."
Between 1998 and 2008, the number of reported melanoma cases rose by 12 per cent for males and 16 per cent for females, according to the Melanoma Foundation.
"There has also been an increase in the number of teenagers getting diagnosed which is a serious concern," Mrs Williams said.
"The worst thing you can do is let your children get burned. People have got to be vigilant about it. We get people who are diagnosed with melanoma in their 50s, but the damage had been done decades earlier."
The Canstar Blue survey, which looked at the skin protection habits of about 1400 Kiwis, also found those between 20 and 30 were the worst at looking after their skin, with 64 per cent choosing to wear sunscreen only on hot, sunny days.
Mrs Williams said the findings were "crazy".
"If you compare it to the precautions we take when driving and how everyone is quite happy to put on a seatbelt, but then they will go out into the sun and fry themselves - it just doesn't make sense because more people die from melanoma every year than on our roads."
- 326 people died in 2009, 213 of whom were males
- 2212 people diagnosed with the cancer that year
- Caused by exposure to UV radiation in sunlight
- Sunburn in childhood increases the risk later in life
- Use of sunbeds before age 35 is associated with a 75 per cent increase in risk
- Ministry of Health.
- Slip, slop, slap - cover up and stay out of the sun
- Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every two hours
- Check your skin annually - immediately consult a doctor if you notice anything different or new
- Avoid sunbeds