New research, conducted at Australia’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, examined melanoma incidence in eight moderate-to-high-risk populations across the world between 1982 and 2015.
The most recent data shows invasive melanoma rates in New Zealand have started to decline while rates in Australia have plateaued.
Invasive melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, which is capable of spreading to other parts of the body.
QIMR Berghofer Senior Scientist and Deputy Director Professor David Whiteman said the most recently available data from 2014/2015 showed about 50 in every 100,000 Australians were diagnosed with invasive melanoma, compared to about 47 out of every 100,000 New Zealanders.
“This is good news for New Zealand, with melanoma rates now dipping below those across the Tasman,” Professor Whiteman said.
“The main difference between the two countries is that in New Zealand rates have stabilised in people aged 60 to 79 years, whereas in Australia rates are still rising in this age group. Rates continue to rise for those aged 80 and over in both countries.”
Whiteman said the fact that rates in New Zealand and Australia were no longer increasing could be attributed to those countries taking more steps to implement community-wide skin cancer prevention programs.
However, Melanoma New Zealand Chief Executive Andrea Newland says there is more to be done.
The debate over which country has the highest incidence of melanoma is not a competition anyone wants to win, says Newland.
“Comparing results from different studies can be complex and can vary depending on the research methodology. This latest study from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute shows that the difference in rates across the Tasman is marginal, and both Australia and New Zealand are still significantly and unacceptably higher than other parts of the world.
“So whatever way the statistics fall, the fact remains that New Zealanders still need to be vigilant about melanoma prevention and early detection through regular skin checks, and we need to also improve patients having the best access to high-quality clinical care.”