February – How to look after our skin?

Dr Jo O'KeefeDr Jo O’Keefe talks this month about looking after our skin.


In the summer months most of us (myself included) are glad for the opportunity to enjoy the warmer weather and the great outdoors. It’s  probably also a good time to remind ourselves about looking after our skin. NZ has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world due to our thin ozone, fierce sun and largely fair skinned population. Skin cancers are our most common cancers and around 500 kiwis a year will die from skin cancer. Most of these deaths are avoidable.


The prevention message has been widely pushed in recent years and most of us are aware that we should slip/slop/slap/wrap. This is so important! There’s more here if you need a reminder on the details. http://sunsmart.org.nz/being-sunsmart

Keeping a regular eye on your own skin may save your life. So what are we looking out for?

  • Any new freckle, mole or spot or one that has changed in size ,colour, thickness or shape.
  • A spot that just looks ‘different’ to all your other spots.
  • If you have a mole, freckle or spot that bleeds or just won’t heal.

Skin checks with a health professional are a good idea for everyone but for those of us who were around before the sunsmart message was really out there (especially if you have memories of tanning oil and sunburn!) then regular skin checks should be part of your life. Most skin cancers respond well to early removal – with melanomas in particular it is crucial they are picked up at an early stage before cancer cells spread throughout the body. Stage one melanoma (confined to the top layer of skin) has survival rates around 95%, stage 4 melanoma ( spread beyond the skin) has survival rates of less than 20%. Seeing a GP or skin specialist once a year for a skin check is ideal or if you have a lot of moles then mole mapping is worth considering. (phone 0800 MOLEMAP for further details.)

For further detail this link from the cancer society has some great info and pictures that are really useful: