Dec 2009

Study: Kiwi Men Still Struggle to Identify Melanoma

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New Zealand men are placing their lives at risk by not adequately diagnosing melanomas and having them checked by a medical professional according to a new study.


New research suggests Kiwi men still struggle to self-diagnose potential melanomas and as a result are putting their health at risk by not getting them checked.

MoleMap New Zealand has found that men are 10% less likely to first recognise a concerning mole than their female counterparts.

Analysis of 100* confirmed melanomas (both male and female patients) in a study by MoleMap found that there was a correlation between the location of a mole and the chance of self-diagnosis which could provide some explanation for why men struggle to spot the sinister moles on their bodies.

Skin cancer research** from 1994 to 2004 shows that men are more than twice as likely to get melanoma on the harder to inspect area of their torso or back (41%), compared to only 19% in women, while women are twice as likely to get melanoma on their legs (39%) than men (15%).

Random spot checks proved to be a life-saver for many of the patients studied with men more likely to suffer from melanoma on parts of the body that are particularly tricky to inspect and monitor for gradual change.

MoleMap found that 26% of patients were diagnosed with melanoma after a pro-active check up where they had come in with no particular mole of concern.

More alarmingly, the MoleMap research also found that 22% of melanomas were diagnosed on patients who visited MoleMap with ‘other’ lesions of concern (i.e. the melanoma diagnosed was not of concern but another lesion was).


These figures suggest that the need to check for change in shape, colour, texture or size in moles is a message that’s still failing to get through to some New Zealanders – particularly men.

Dr Mark Gray, a MoleMap dermatologist says it’s worrying that over half of those diagnosed were concerned with the wrong mole or no particular mole at all.

Dr Gray says it important for anyone who feels some sensation in the lesion to trust their instincts because it may be something more sinister.

“Melanoma is often completely without symptoms. Left untreated, in severe cases the cancer can progress to other areas of the body such as the lymph nodes or brain,” he says.

Many melanomas go undetected because of where they are located on the body. This is supported by the results of the MoleMap study which found that 10% of all diagnosed melanomas are on the head and 5% on either the soles of the hands and feet or under toenails.

Dr Gray says cases of melanomas under toenails, or acral melanomas, are hard to spot, but surprisingly more frequent than many may realise.

“You can also get them under fingernails in the mouth and in the eyes. Bob Marley had one on his toe and the cancer metastasised to his brain, lungs, liver and stomach eventually killing him aged only 36. My advice is to be vigilant about checking for these things and make sure if you have any concerns you see a professional.”

New Zealanders with darker skin tones shouldn’t become complacent either because acral melanomas are surprisingly the most commonly occurring form of melanoma in Maori, Pacific Island, Asian and African populations.

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Fleur Revell
Fleur Revell is one of the country’s most eminent PR consultants and public relations practitioners with more than 20 years industry experience behind her. Fleur is also a three times Qantas Media Awards winner and Feature Writer of the Year; and has an exceptional working knowledge of the New Zealand media landscape and its accelerating evolution in the digital age.
Study: Kiwi Men Still Struggle to Identify Melanoma
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