Melanoma and environmental health
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer, and, together with Australia, New Zealand has the highest rates in the world . In 2021, there were 2,859 registrations of melanoma in New Zealand. Melanoma was the third most commonly registered cancer in 2019 for males (behind prostate cancer and colon cancer) and for females (behind breast and colon cancer).
Overexposure to UV radiation from the sun is the main environmental risk factor for melanoma. It has been estimated that more than 90% of all melanoma cases in New Zealand can be attributed to UV radiation exposure .
There were 2,859 melanoma registrations in 2021
In 2021, there were 2,859 melanoma registrations in New Zealand. The melanoma registration rate has always been higher for males than females over the past 20 years.
296 people died from melanoma in 2018
In 2018, 296 people died from melanoma in New Zealand. This is a 22% decline since 2015 (378 deaths). Age-standardised mortality rates also decreased a statistically significant amount between 2015 (3.3 per 100,000) and 2018 (4.9 per 100,000).
The decrease in melanoma deaths from 2015 to 2018 may be linked to the availability of two new treatments for advanced melanoma - Opdivo and Keytruda. These treatments began receiving public funding by Pharmac in July 2016 and September 2016 respectively. The decrease in melanoma deaths is likely due to these new treatments, as (i) it is in line with what would be expected from the addition of these PD-L1 treatments, based on clinical studies, and (ii) there are no other major factors that explain this large decrease .
For more information and interactive figures relating to this data, view the factsheets at the top of the page or:
- Click here to view the melanoma registration interactive factsheet.
- Click here to view the melanoma mortality interactive factsheet.
Information about the data
Melanoma cancer registrations and deaths
Source: Ministry of Health – New Zealand Cancer Registry (latest data is for 2021), New Zealand Mortality Collection (latest data is for 2018).
Definition: Melanoma is defined as melanoma of the skin registrations (ICD-10 C43) in the New Zealand Cancer Registry. Rates are per 100,000 people, and have been age-standardised to the WHO world standard population.
1. Cancer Control Agency. 2021. Cancer Types: Melanoma Cancer. Accessed 03/05/2021.
2. Wild CP, Weiderpass E, Stewart BW, editors (2020). World Cancer Report: Cancer Research for Cancer Prevention. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer. Retrieved 4 November 2022 from: http://publications.iarc.fr/586.
3. Arnold M, de Vries E, Whiteman D, Jemal A, Bray F, Maxwell Parlin D, Soerjomataram I. 2018. Global burden of cutaneous melanoma attributable to ultraviolet radiation in 2012. International Journal of Cancer. 2018 Apr 16;143:1305-1314.https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.31527.
4. Mason K, Kelly L, Jackson C, Read D, Borman B. 2022. Did new treatments contribute to a decrease in melanoma deaths?. New Zealand Medical Journal: 135(1558), 90-95. URL: https://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal-articles/did-new-treatments-contribute-to-a-decrease-in-melanoma-deaths.