Cancer-causing ultraviolet rays are 40 percent stronger in New Zealand than at similar latitudes in North America, research by the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research and the university shows. The study will be published in the next issue of the Cambridge, U.K.-based journal of Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences.
“The lack of pollution is the main factor,” study co- author Richard McKenzie said in a telephone interview from the institute’s Lauder facility in the South Island’s central Otago region. “I was surprised that the difference between New Zealand and the U.S. was so high.”
Skin cancer kills about 300 people annually in New Zealand, a nation of 4.1 million people, and costs about NZ$33 million ($23 million) a year, according to a University of Otago study in 2000. About 75 percent of the deaths are from melanoma, the most-deadly type, which occurs in the population at three times the rate in the U.S.
Melanoma is the fifth-most common cancer in New Zealand and the most common tumor in those aged 20 to 39 years, according to the country’s Cancer Society.