Who gets melanoma?
Melanoma can develop in anyone
- Male and females
- Old people and young people
- People with light- or dark- coloured skin
About one in fifteen fair-skinned New Zealanders can expect to get a melanoma in their lifetime. New Zealand has the highest rates of melanoma in the world. In 2009 it was the fourth most common cancer registered and the sixth most common cause of death from cancer.
In New Zealand, older men of non-European ethnicity are more likely to be diagnosed with a difficult-to-treat thick melanoma. Men are twice as likely to die from melanoma than females of similar ethnic background.
Do Māori people get melanoma too?
Yes! Anyone can get melanoma, although it is much more common in white-skinned people than in brown- or black-skinned people.
Melanoma in Māori, Pacific and Asian people
Skin cancer, including melanoma, occurs much less commonly in Māori, Pacific and Asian people from New Zealand compared with New Zealand Europeans.
- Ethnic groups with naturally darker skin produce more melanin. Melanin absorbs the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) that comes from the sun, preventing it from harming skin cells.
- Cultural and behavioural differences relating to clothing and activities may also account for varied risks of melanoma in different populations.
Even though less than 1% of Māori are diagnosed with melanoma, they tend to have thicker melanomas, which are more dangerous and more difficult to treat. Three Māori men and three Māori women died of melanoma in 2010.
- Melanoma in ethnic skin is often on the sole of the foot or under a nail.
- Take a new or growing skin spot seriously – see your doctor straight away.
|Melanoma in Māori||Melanoma in Pacific Islander||Melanoma in Asian||Melanoma of the nail|
Melanoma risk factors
Certain risk factors increase the chances of someone getting the most common type of melanoma (superficial spreading melanoma) compared with someone else. These are listed below.
- Age over 50 years
- Previous melanoma
- Having many moles
- Having large or funny-looking (atypical) moles
- Previous non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis)
- Family history of melanoma
- Light- or fair-coloured skin
- Skin that burns easily and tans poorly
- Using sunbeds or tanning salons
These relative risk factors are less important for the less common types of melanoma (apart from older age). These arise sporadically.
|Risk factor||Examples of relative risk|
|Age over 50 years||
|Having many moles||
|Having large or funny-looking (atypical) moles||
|Previous non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis)||
|Family history of melanoma||
|Light- or fair-coloured skin.||
|Skin that burns easily and tans poorly||
|Using sunbeds or tanning salons||
|Sun damage||Many moles||An atypical mole||Fair skin and red hair|