Skin Cancer

Given the high ultraviolet exposure in New Zealand, skin cancer is a major concern.  Lighter skin types are more at risk, often genetic. Sunburn is a risk factor.

Melanoma occurs more in northern NZ than anywhere else at present.  Moles that itch, bleed, have irregular colouring or borders, grow rapidly or undergo colour change are suspicious and need checking or removing. Examination with a magnifying light, dermoscopy, often can eliminate the need to worry, or determine whether an removal is indicated. Thicker melanomas are more of concern.   97% of melanomas are removed with early simple surgical excision providing a cure.   A wider excision may be indicated after laboratory examination.

Non-pigmented cancers are far more common, such as basal cell cancers (BCCs) and squamous cell cancers (SCCs).  BCCs account for about 70% of skin cancers, and SCCs 20%.  Some are more serious and require wider removal margins.   Nonsurgical treatment avoiding needles and scars is an option- photodynamic therapy (PDT) utilises a laser light and a photosensitising acid solution application to destroy the skin cancer cells with similar results to surgery.

Other treatments may include: cryotherapy - applying a cold burn with liquid nitrogen jet spray gun, but pale scaring may result; simple surgical excision or more complicated flap repairs; application of immune modulating agents as Aldara; application of cytotoxic ointment as 5-Fluorouracil or Efudix; nonsurgical treatment with photodynamic therapy, PDT; diathermy and curettage; or laser ablation with a CO2 laser. All these are available at this clinic.

Digital photography is also helpful for surveillance. MoleMap is the only national system in NZ for this, and can be booked by phoning 0800 665 3627 for an appointment.