Kiwis warned to check skin before summer holidays

Kiwis heading off on holiday are being reminded to cover up and get a skin check.

It comes as New Zealand looks to record its warmest year on record.

"Talking about it, hearing about it, you're like 'oh yeah it's cancer, it won't touch me' and it did," 32-year-old Michael Kooge says.

He discovered a lump on his neck when he was 27. It was melanoma. He had to undergo major surgery and gruelling radiotherapy.

"They had to take out muscles and nerves and things because the tumour was intertwined with it."

His surgeon, Mark Izzard, feared he may never smile again.

"I could barely talk but I said 'I'm really not in the mood to smile obviously' and he goes 'you need to smile'.

Mr Kooge says when he smiled it looked like Dr Izzard was going to cry.

"Michael's story is an unfortunate story, in as much as his skin cancer got away and spread to his lymph nodes," Dr Izzard says. "But it's a good story in as much as he's a survivor."

It's also a family story. His cousin Jeff Paterson successfully campaigned for funding for the melanoma drug Keytruda, but died in August without getting the chance to benefit from it.

Melanoma is the most common cancer in Kiwi men aged 25 to 44 years' old, yet a Skin Institute survey found only one in five men wear sunscreen every day.

"You're supposed to be wearing sunscreen all the time, like when you're in your car, when you're on your lunch break... I think I forget that quite a lot. I haven't now," Mr Kooge says.

Every year 300 Kiwis die from melanoma, Dr Izzard says it's a shocking statistic for a cancer that is largely preventable, and easily treated if caught early.

"If you've got a strong family history of melanoma… you are much more likely to get it and should have your skin checked," Dr Izzard says.