Melanoma rates falling for young New Zealanders

New Zealand has the highest rates of melanoma in the world - it kills more than 300 Kiwis each year.

But new research has revealed some encouraging news. Kiwis in their 20s and 30s have lower rates of melanoma than their parents did at the same age.

"The rates amongst the younger NZers are starting to drop, significantly," says skin cancer specialist Professor David Whiteman.

Prof Whiteman attributes it, in part, to the ads encouraging sun smart behaviour.

"The sun protection campaigns that have been in place for the last 20 or so years have had an effect on those younger people," he says.

But the Cancer Society says the sunsafe message needs to continue to be pushed and GP Chris Boberg, from the Melanoma Network, agrees.

"We could do a heck of a lot more and we really do need to. This disease is a killer," he says.

And although the research is encouraging for those in their 20s and 30s, it's no reason to be complacent.

"You've just sort of tipped over the top of the mountain but it's still a mountain of melanoma," Prof Whiteman says.

While things are looking better for younger generations, older Kiwis who've been exposed to the sun are still getting melanoma at alarming rates.

Around 70 percent of cases occur in people over 50 and 13 Kiwis are diagnosed with melanoma every day.

The message is to see your GP early if you have any concerns.