mature couple applying sunscreen at beach
31 July 2018

Kiwis top for skin cancer rates

A new study has confirmed the need to ban sunbeds and make sunscreen standards mandatory, Consumer NZ says.

A new study which shows New Zealand has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world confirmed the need to ban sunbeds and make sunscreen standards mandatory, Consumer NZ says.

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting Kiwis. The 2018 Skin Cancer Index says NZ has nearly 2500 new cases of melanoma every year.

It’s recommended slopping on the sunscreen is one way to protect ourselves from sunburn. Despite this, New Zealand classifies sunscreens as cosmetics and this is clearly not protecting consumers against the sun’s harmful rays.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said last year it tested 20 sunscreens against the Australia/New Zealand standard and only nine met their SPF label claim and the requirements for broad-spectrum protection.

“Our test found some natural sunscreens only provided low protection. One didn’t meet high protection or broad spectrum claims and two companies – including one big brand - provided test certificates for similar, but not identical sunscreens,” Ms Chetwin says.

Sunscreens can be sold in New Zealand without being tested because the sunscreen standard is voluntary here.

Using a sunbed also increases your risk of getting skin cancer. According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, using one before age 30 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%.

Like sunscreens, compliance with the sunbed standard is voluntary. Consumer NZ has been mystery-shopping sunbed operators for more than a decade. In February this year our survey confirmed the poor practices in this industry.

“Young people and those with fair skin are particularly vulnerable, but two operators allowed a person under 18 to have a sunbed and six operators allowed a person with fair skin to have a sunbed,” Ms Chetwin said. Shoppers did not have the sunbed but carried out the survey in the cubicle.

Existing regulation isn’t providing sufficient consumer protection and it’s time the government made the sunscreen standard mandatory and banned sunbeds. These measures are already in place in Australia and with our higher skin cancer rates it’s not good enough our regulations are lagging behind.

See Consumer NZ’s sunscreen and sunbed reports for more information.

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