Big dip in melanoma deaths over 10 years reported in NZ

Melanoma deaths in New Zealand have declined substantially in the past decade, likely due to improvements in treatment and diagnosis.

Data published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal shows mortality rates from melanoma reduced by almost 70% between 2012 and 2021 for adults aged 20-44 and 50% for groups aged 45-74.

The improvements in mortality data have averted 164 deaths, according to the report’s authors Mark Elwood, an honorary professor at the University of Auckland, and Marius Rademaker.

They suggest the reduction in mortality could be due to improvements in melanoma management, earlier diagnosis and potentially better survival rates due to improved treatments.

Together, New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of melanoma mortality in the world. Melanoma is reported in these two countries at rates about twice as high as Western Europe and North America.

A 2022 study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology found New Zealand had the highest mortality rates of any nation.

Elwood and Rademaker suggest a nationwide approach to continue lowering melanoma cases and deaths, with most service improvements currently achieved by local programs.

“The creation of Health New Zealand-Te Whatu Ora, provides the opportunity for a national approach to early diagnosis and to reduce inequities in providing services,” they write.

New melanoma patients cost the Kiwi taxpayer NZ$51.2m in 2021, while prevention measures in global studies have been shown to deliver a substantial return on investment.

In NSW, education campaigns to address skin cancer from 2006-13 delivered $3.85 in health benefits for every $1 spent on public awareness.

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