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Know Your Skin, Spot Checks & Cancer Signs | nib

30 May 2024

Skin Cancer Checks

Skin Cancer, spot checks and more – what you need to know about melanoma

Skin cancer has one of the highest global incidences of any form of cancer, with New Zealand clocking the highest rates of melanoma in the world. But this doesn’t mean we can’t keep on enjoying the Kiwi sun we know and love – it means it's even more important to know what skin cancer is, the signs to look out for, be sun smart and importantly, ensure you have regular skin checks.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer begins when your skin cells are damaged, for example, by the sun, and become cancerous. Skin cancers are currently the most common cancers diagnosed in Aotearoa.

The most common skin cancer types are:

  • Melanoma – spreads through the body via the bloodstream and can arise anywhere, including areas that have never seen the sun. This is the most serious type of skin cancer.

  • BCC (basal cell cancer) – the most common type of skin cancer, the growth is usually confined locally, can be pink and may bleed or itch. It is potentially more dangerous on the face.

  • SCC (squamous cell cancer) – this type often arises from sunspots and can appear scaly and more tender. It’s slightly more serious as it can spread to the lymph glands.

Main risk factors of skin cancer

The main risk factor for all skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation, with more than 80% of melanomas attributed to UV exposure. This includes not only long-term exposure but also short periods of intense sun exposure or burning, especially in childhood or with sunbed/tanning bed use.

Other risk factors for skin cancer include:

  • If you’ve had skin cancer before
  • If you have family/whānau members with skin cancer
  • If you have a skin type that sunburns easily
  • If you have red, blonde or light-coloured hair
  • If you have many moles or larger moles
  • If you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun unprotected

Important skin cancer symptoms to look out for

  • A crusty sore that is not healing
  • Small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
  • New or existing spots or moles changing in colour, thickness or shape
  • A dry, scaly area that is shiny and pale or bright pink in colour

Having these symptoms may not mean you have skin cancer, but it is important to get any changes or abnormalities checked by your doctor.

Stay up to date with your skin checks

The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death.

But nib’s latest health check research revealed that only 13% of Kiwis surveyed are up to date with their latest skin check (e.g. mole map, melanoma screening), and a whopping 6 in 10 (62%) had never been screened for skin cancer at all.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary from your at-home skin check, speak to your doctor immediately. You can also get a clinical examination by a health care provider where a doctor or nurse checks the skin for moles, birthmarks, or other pigmented areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture. The main thing to remember is that early-stage detection is the key to beating skin cancer.

To find out what other health checks you need and how to stay on top of them, nib has developed a helpful resource to make health check information simple.

Download nib’s Warrant of Wellness here:

Your treatment and recovery with nib Cancer Care

If diagnosed with skin cancer, there are different treatment options depending on the type of cancer, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, new types of treatments being tested in clinical trials, and more.

At nib, we want to support our members through their whole treatment and recovery journey, especially in the moments where it may feel frightening or turbulent. Our Cancer Care programme offers support for eligible members and their carers when they’re going through treatment for cancer, with one-on-one guidance from a wellness coach to proactively support their health and wellbeing during treatment and recovery.

When it comes to skin cancer, remember to be vigilant with skin checks and catch these silent spots before they turn into something more serious.

If you’d like to learn more about nib Cancer Care and our other Health Management Programmes, visit: