Summer Newsletter 2022: Freckles, Skin Checks & Covid

Jan 20, 2022

Freckles are fabulous but watch out for changes

Freckles are fabulous, but it’s also important to keep an eye on your freckles, spots and moles and be mindful to notice any changes that occur. Our skin is the largest organ of the body and one of its main functions is to protect us against heat, light, injury, and infection. If we look after it, it should do a fine job over our lifetime. Keeping an eye out for any changes is even more important if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer due to factors such as:

  • Multiple sunburns at a younger age
  • Pale skin that burns easily, blonde/ginger hair or blue eyes
  • Regular sun-bed use
  • Personal or family history of skin cancer

If you or your family have one or two spots that are new or you are worried about, come on in for a spot check with any of our GP’s. Its free for under 14-year-olds and normal GP appointment charge for others.

So why are freckles more prominent and there seem to be more of them in summer? Freckles are brown because of the pigment melanin. Melanin production increases when skin is exposed to UV radiation from sunlight. More UV radiation in summer means more melanin production, and so some kinds of freckles become more noticeable.

TIP #1: To minimize freckle formation during the summer: Reduce exposure to UV radiation by wearing sunscreen and hat when outside. Learn more about freckles, what they are, why they appear.

Skin cancer in NZ

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in NZ – our skin cancer rates are the highest in the world. Skin cancer is mostly caused by UV radiation from the sun, which perhaps not surprisingly, is higher in NZ in summer than many other countries.

The key to preventing skin cancer is to reduce your UV exposure and most importantly, avoid getting sunburnt. In New Zealand the highest period of risk is from September – April between 10am and 4pm when UV levels are their highest. UV damage to your skin, and therefore skin cancer risk, accumulates over your lifetime so you should consider sun protection, even if you are young now.

TIP #2: To reduce your skin cancer risk: wear a wide brim hat, apply sunblock & reapply every 2 hours (even if you haven’t been swimming) and wear sunglasses (that have 100% UV protection.) Learn more about sun protection and being sun smart.

Get your skin checked

Poor outcomes from skin cancer can be greatly reduced by early detection. You can check your skin yourself. If you want a professional check, come in and see us for a full skin check. A full skin check with one of our skin cancer specialist GP’s involves asking you some questions to determine your risk factors for skin cancer and then a skin examination from the scalp to the toes. You will need to undress to underwear for this. We have a choice of male and female specialist GP’s and you are welcome to bring a support person. Your skin is examined with a skin microscope called a dermascope. A full skin check with a skin cancer specialist GP will take about 30 minutes and will cost $160. If after the examination the GP recommends removal of a skin lesion/spot they will discuss surgical and non-surgical options and will arrange another appointment to do this. Most skin cancers can be removed with simple excisions under local anesthesia. For more complicated excisions that require specialist reconstructive skin surgery then we offer a referral to Dr Derek Goodison, a Maxillofacial Surgeon who specializes in skin cancer, who will be available for monthly surgery clinics at Wanaka Medical. We are a Southern Cross affiliated provider for certain skin procedures that have applicable medical insurance cover. TIP #3: If you have a higher risk of skin cancer, get a full skin check once a year. Meet our skin cancer specialist GP’s at Wanaka Medical (left to right): Andrew, Julian, Michele and Mark. These GP’s are all accredited skin cancer doctors, and hold advanced clinical certificates in skin cancer medicine & surgery, and certificates in dermascopy.

COVID-19: Caring for our community cases

We are moving into a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, where we can expect to have positive cases in the community, and self-isolating at home. Here is some important info if you find yourself in this situation. So how can Wanaka Medical support your health needs if you find yourself in this situation? The Wanaka Medical team will still be available for our enrolled patients self isolating at home with COVID-19. We expect that most of this care will be done virtually, either as a video or phone consultation, at no cost to the patient. This care of COVID-19 cases is part of a Well South programme we have agreed to participate in for our patients. What can you expect after a positive diagnosis of COVID-19? You will be contacted by Well South to confirm the type of support you may need during your illness while self-isolating at home, including that you are able to be contacted by us during this time. How often can you expect us to check in with you? Our younger, healthier patients self-isolating will likely to be contacted every second day by a member of the Wanaka Medical team to see how you are doing. Those that are older, or have other health problems, will be contacted daily. In this case you will also be sent a device called a pulse oximeter, with instructions on how to use it, so we can monitor your oxygen levels. We expect most of our patients will manage well at home and recover without needing any further support. However, if we are concerned about your condition, arrangements will be made to escalate care, including in some cases for St Johns to take you directly to hospital. How do you prepare for your self-isolation at home?

  • Make sure you have a good supply of paracetamol at home for body aches and fevers, you have your favourite cough and sore throat remedy ready, and a good book or favourite movies lined up.
  • Ensure you drink plenty of water and get lots of rest.

Please note: It’s important to us that everybody feels safe in the medical centre and can access care when they need to. To reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 we ask all patients, regardless of vaccination status, if they have any flu like symptoms before they arrive for their appointment. We will still meet your health needs if you do have symptoms, either virtually, or if an examination is required, in a dedicated clinical space, separate from the main practice. Everyone is required to wear a face-mask when entering the practice. As always, never hesitate to get in touch if something in our newsletters raise any questions or concerns you in any way. We’re always here to help. The Wanaka Medical team.