Skin cancer specialists are warning people not to get complacent when it comes to sun protection this summer.

Despite years of research into the impacts of sun exposure, New Zealand and Australia still have the highest mortality rates of melanoma in the world.

Each year, melanoma kills around 300 people in New Zealand, and nearly 3000 invasive cases are diagnosed – some of the highest rates in the world.

Doctors say up to 90% of melanomas are caused by too much exposure to UV radiation from the sun.

“People shouldn’t be dying of melanomas these days,” Skinspots by Molemaps’ Dr Franz Strydom said.

“We know what causes it, we know how to treat it, we know how to pick it up — we’re just not doing any of those well enough.”

He said that even with sunscreen, a day in the sun can still burn – and a tan means you’ve damaged your DNA. Those who work outside, like farmers, are particularly at risk.

He recommends skin checks should happen every three to six months.

“The most important thing is to prevent it where you can and pick it up as soon as possible.

“That’s probably the most important two things we need to do, too.”

Caution could benefit the health system too, with skin cancer expected to cost nearly $300 million by 2025.

“For skin cancer rates to decline, we have to all be taking responsibility,” Dr Bronwen McNoe, senior research fellow at the University of Otago, said.

She says prevention is the best protection.

“So sun protection strategies as individuals but we also Need for schools and early childhood education and workplaces to be investing in shade.”