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Melanoma – trends and treatments

31 Mar, 2011

Melanoma rates in New Zealand and Australia are increasing, but we can reduce these rates by minimising our sun exposure.

Listen to audio: Melanoma – trends and treatments

Duration: 17:09

Melanoma in New Zealand and Australia

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand but causes few deaths, whereas melanoma skin cancer is less common but causes over 200 deaths each year.

Preventing melanoma

Alison Ballance catches up with epidemiologists Mary Jane Sneyd and Brian Cox, from the Hugh Adam Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Otago, and Bruce Armstrong, from the University of Sydney. They discuss the increasing rates of skin cancers in New Zealand and Australia.

Both non-melanoma and melanoma cancers are preventable. In New Zealand, more research is needed about the risk factors for melanoma. Primary prevention can reduce skin cancers. Primary prevention includes reducing skin exposure to the sun (using hats and clothes), particularly at times of the day or year when UV is high, and using sunblock, although research has shown that sunblock should not be a substitute for reducing sun exposure. Earlier diagnosis also means the prognosis (outcome) of a skin cancer is improved.

New treatments for metastatic melanoma

Metastatic melanoma is when the cancer spreads to the lungs, liver, lymph nodes and brain. The prognosis is poor for patients with this form of melanoma. Richard Kefford from the University of Sydney Westmead Hospital talks about several new drugs that have been going through clinical trials. These drugs offer significant ‘survival advantages’ for metastatic melanomas, which until now have had no treatment options.

Programme details: Our Changing World

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