11 Mar 2011

Sun exposure early in life 'not sole determinant'

11:44 pm on 11 March 2011

A leading sun cancer specialist says it's a myth that sun exposure early in life is the sole determinant of a person's lifelong risk of melanoma.

Professor Bruce Armstrong of Sydney University told a summit in Wellington on Friday that melanoma rates have dropped among the young in Australia and probably also in New Zealand.

But they have risen, he says, among those who are older, particularly men, because of sun exposure later in life as well as in youth.

Professor Armstrong says sunscreen and shade do work, and he urges a greater role for the family doctor in warning people about the advantages of protection.

He also wants artificial sunbeds banned, a call backed by a Melanoma Network group at the conference.

Its spokesperson, radiation oncologist Graham Stevens, says sunbeds should be banned for under-18s, with sunbed use before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%.

He says there are no regulations governing sunbed use in this country, unlike in Australia and the United Kingdom.