Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Zealand Has The World's Worst Rate of Melanomas

Source: The Australian, 14 Nov 2008

"NEW Zealand has edged out Australia to have the world's worst rate of melanomas, researchers have found.

Richard Martin from the New Zealand Melanoma Unit compared the skin cancer rates between the two countries and found Kiwis had slightly higher chances of suffering the dangerous cancer.

His unpublished research found about 44 New Zealanders per 100,000 were diagnosed with melanomas each year, while in Australia the rate was about 40 per 100,000.

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, but not the most common.

“There has always been a kind of rivalry, not terribly good rivalry, between the two countries to know which is the melanoma centre of the world,” Dr Martin said.

The latest figures showed New Zealand's rates were higher, he said.

He said both Australia and New Zealand had skin cancer rates three to four times higher than other parts of the world, because so many light-skinned people lived at warm latitudes.

New Zealand, however, was under a larger part of the hole in the ozone layer, and had less pollution than Australia, which absorbed some UV radiation, he said.

Size of Ozone Hole on 15 Nov 2008

“If you compare the latitude of Auckland in particular, with the equivalent latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, that is North Africa,” Dr Martin said.

“Think about the colour of skin of North African people compared to the pale European people living in New Zealand.”

Dr Martin said New Zealand was participating in an international trial to help develop a vaccine against melanomas.

“There are literally hundreds of vaccine trials underway around the world, including in Australia and Europe and elsewhere,” he said.

He said while New Zealand as a country had a higher rate of skin cancers than Australia, it was lower than separate areas such as Queensland."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Powerlines Cast Cancer Cloud in Massey

Powerlines are an eyesore and a dominant feature in the Massey landscape, suspended directly above both private and commercial residences.

Many people are concerned about the effects that electromagnetic radiation have on human health. Concerns have been raised about a cluster of cancers in this low income, sprawling suburb of Waitakere.

Google Street View of lines

Source: NZ Herald
by Kirsty Wynn

"Two neighbours of high-profile cancer victim and film-maker Cameron Duncan have been diagnosed with the disease - adding further weight to concerns about the apparent dangers of overhead power lines.

While overseas investigations have found clear links between electromagnetic radiation and childhood leukaemia and other forms of cancer, little research has been done in New Zealand.

The Auckland District Health Board has carried out an investigation into the apparent cancer cluster in Massey, West Auckland, but found cancer rates there were no higher than in other areas of a similar population level.

But the research data was based on who was living in the target area up until 2001 and did not take into account the recent cases, which included Cameron and four others at Massey’s Royal Road school.

An Auckland urologist, who has studied the connection between high-voltage power pylons and cancer, has found strong links between high-tension power lines and childhood cancer, breast cancer and depression.

Meanwhile, energy giant Transpower -which is proposing a controversial 400kV line from Whakamaru to South Auckland - says its lines are safe.

Months after the death of her son Cameron, Sharon Duncan remains adamant about the reasons he went to an early grave - constant exposure to electromagnetic radiation from overhead power lines.

She was shocked to hear two more of her neighbours had been diagnosed with the disease that had killed her son.

"That takes the number of people with cancer surrounding our house up to five," Mrs Duncan said.

"We had already lost two immediate neighbours to cancer and then Cameron.

"And we have a power pole right in the middle of all the houses concerned."

One of the latest neighbours to be diagnosed is Parvati Smith, who lives directly in front of the Duncans’ home.

"There seems to be a lot of us in the street who have cancer," Mrs Smith told the Herald on Sunday.

"I think it needs to be looked into properly - there are too many people around here with it."

Mrs Smith, who lives next door to Cameron’s former home, and Dorothy Tyler, who lives directly across the road, have both been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year.

The street has power lines running through it - directly over the Duncans’ home and over the Smiths.

Mrs Smith said finding she had breast cancer in a routine mammogram in March was a huge shock.

"I was in a daze because I am very healthy and have no family history but we do have the power lines over the house.

"My husband was quite worried about the powerlines and had copper wiring put through the house a while back."

Mrs Smith does not know for sure what caused her cancer but said she was considering moving.

"We have lived here for 23 years but it has made me think about it. I spoke to Sharon and she told us to get out."

Mrs Duncan sold her Anich Rd property last year, saying she lived in a cancer triangle.

It was also last year that details emerged that Cameron and two close friends - Jeffrey Thumath and Charles Hetaraka - were diagnosed with cancer within two months of each other.

Cameron and Charles both died in 2003 when they were 17 and New Zealand athletics champion Jeffrey, now 20, will soon have surgery for lung and stomach cancer.

The boys shared a number of commonalities including being born at St Helen’s Hospital in Waitakere, attending the same school, playing competitive sport, and being diagnosed and receiving treatment within two months of each other.

Their mothers - Gail Thumath, Elizabeth Hetaraka and Sharon Duncan - all had a link to the West Auckland suburbs while they were pregnant.

It was also revealed last year that two other Royal Road School pupils and another local boy living near the school had cancer.

Kristian Gibson was 14 when he died of a brain tumour. He was at Royal Road School at the same time as the three boys and died in the same year as Charles and Cameron.

Another Royal Road pupil - who did not want to be named - developed pre-cancerous cells in the same year.

Local boy Samuel England, 18, was diagnosed with cancer at 10 months of age but is now clear of the disease.

Since then, other Massey residents with cancer, and parents who have lost children to cancer, have come forward demanding answers.

Families bordering a sub-station in Timandra Ave in Massey (Picture from Google Maps, click to enlarge)

claimed their cats were having litters of deformed kittens, and living near the power centre was making them sick.

The Savaiinaea family have two children with leukaemia and their mother, Violet, had a miscarriage last month at 22 weeks.

Mrs Savaiinaea’s two children Sone, 8, and Alesha, 6, were born near substations - Sone when the family was living in Otara and Alseha in Timandra Place.

Along with leukaemia, Alesha has severe asthma and Sone has epilepsy. Both children have Netherton’s Syndrome - a disease which causes their skin to peel and become infected and makes them lose weight.

Her other children - who were not born near the substation - are healthy.

Mrs Savaiinaea - a taxi-call-centre worker - was made distraught by the miscarriage. It is the second she has had since moving to Timandra Place.

"I knew something was wrong and I thought the baby had leukaemia because the pregnancy was the same as when I had Alesha.

"I was about five months’ pregnant and I went to the doctor for something else and they found the baby had stopped breathing," she said.

"The doctors had already told me if I got pregnant again there was a 60 per cent chance I would have another baby with leukaemia."

Mrs Savaiinaea said her family has suffered ill health since moving to the street eight years ago.

All the homes in the cul de sac are owned by Housing New Zealand.

She is convinced the substation has made her and her family sick and said her mother doesn’t visit any more because she gets headaches every time she visits.

"My mother has stopped coming around now because she gets bad headaches every time she comes out here. She said it is the power station, so we have to take the kids to see her now."

Mrs Savaiinaea said no one should be allowed to live under power lines or near a substation.

The Auckland District Health Board launched an investigation into the apparent cancer cluster late last year and released a report three weeks ago stating there was no elevated risk in the area.

The report said the incidence of cancer in the area was not elevated and "no environmental cancer-causing agents link the occurrence of the cancers involved".

But the mothers of Cameron, Charles and Jeffrey said the report used outdated information and drew conclusions from a cancer register which did not include their sons.

Mrs Duncan, along with Mrs Hetaraka and Mrs Thumath noted the cancer registry referred to went up to 2001 while their sons were diagnosed in 2002.

Medical specialist Dr Robin Smart has been studying the relationship between power pylons and health effects since he found Transpower’s proposed 400kV line from Whakamaru to South Auckland would run 300m from his Whitford property.

The Auckland urologist has read 100 medical papers and found strong links with overhead lines and health conditions like severe depression, childhood leukaemia - which is two or three times higher - and breast cancer.

He said the power limits in New Zealand were far too high.

"Research shows that if you live near lines with more than 0.1 micro tesla of magnetic radiation there is evidence you are at risk."

He said levels here - set by the World Health Organisation - were far too high.

"They have set very high levels of 200 micro tesla. It is so high a lot of countries are now stopping people from living under the lines."

Mr Smart said the solution to the power-pylon debate was using the safer DC lines - rather than the AC lines which have alternating or pulsing current - and putting them underground.

Transpower spokesman Chris Roberts said the company maintained the lines to the Ministry of Health guidelines. "We are not health experts - we just do as we are told," Mr Roberts said.


1985 Jeffrey Thumath born at St Helen’s Hospital in Waitakere.

1986 Cameron Duncan and Charles Hetaraka born at St Helen’s.

1988 Kristian Gibson born in Melbourne, Australia.

2001 Gibson diagnosed in August with cancerous brain tumour.

2002 Hetaraka and Duncan both diagnosed with cancer.

2003 Thumath diagnosed with cancer. Gibson dies in February, aged 14. In July Charles Hetaraka, 17, dies. Duncan dies in November.

2004 Dorothy Tyler diagnosed in April with breast cancer.

2005 Parvati Smith diagnosed this month with breast cancer.

Further New Zealand based reading:

"Under the Wires" Listener Magazine Article, April 2007

Powerlines Double Risk of Cancer in Children

Monday, November 10, 2008

Migration: Culture Shock and Loss, A Comparison

Many migrants to New Zealand usually go through some form of culture shock -a pyscological reaction to an unfamiliar environment, or a sense of grief for the loss of the lives they they've left behind. I'd like to just take a few moments to weigh up the two.

1.Honeymoons and Denial
Exposure to an unfamiliar environments can be a positive experience, there's freshness of a new set of stimuli, the joy of discovery and the initial elation at having "made it". It's often called the honeymoon phase because of the the differences between the old and new cultures are seen in a romantic way.

It is during this phase that many migrants congratulate themselves on their decision to move to New Zealand, it's a re-affirmation that their decision was a "good choice".

Not every migrant feels this way though, some are hit with the feeling of " What have I done?" when they realise that the quality of their life in New Zealand is going to be lower than it was in their own country. Poor working practices, low remuneration, poor quality housing, lower standards of education and xenophobia are often cited as factors

"This is so much worse than what I came from, this can't be happening to me!" is how they often feel. This is called the denial phase.

2.Negotiation and Anger
Migrants come out their honeymoon phase as the gloss begins to wear off and the routine of everyday life is established. That vacation feeling fades away after a few weeks and they enter the negotiation phase. People often start to miss food from home, their favourite TV show, friends and relatives; they find cultural differences annoying. They may suffer mood swings during this time and some go on to develop depression.

Others transition from denial to anger as they rail against the injustices and unfairness of their new lives. They feel restricted and trapped by the situation they find themselves in.

3.Adjustment and Bargaining
Moving out the negotiation phases takes around 6-12 months. By then the sense of newness has worn off, the routine of daily life takes over and people begin to feel a lot more settled and content as they assimilate into the culture. Unless circumstances change for them they tend to stay in this phase

The other group moves from denial into bargaining: How can they work out a way to make this place work, if they stick at things for a year or two perhaps it will get better?

They often take up a course of further education, get stuck in to having a family, take up a new hobby or or concentrate on doing up that awful house they just bought.

4.Reverse culture shock and Depression
Migrants who've made it through to the adjustment phase tend to stay put. But those who do move on often say that they have problems when they return to their own country - whether it be on a holiday or to live. The problems they have re-adjusting can be just as marked as those they experienced when they arrived in New Zealand and most are unprepared for it.

The group that experienced grief as a result of their migration move on from the bargaining phase into depression. They feel powerless to control their own destiny, they feel as if they live on the margins of society. At this stage they may not have the means to leave New Zealand or are prevented from going due to other commitments e.g.their partner is a New Zealander and doesn't want to leave.

If they are still working they may be in a job that they are over qualified/experienced for and subordinate to someone that they feel no respect for.

This can cause depression, suicidal tendencies and a distinct feeling of being trapped and powerless.

Some make it through into the acceptance phase, some do manange to leave. Those who stay may change their careers completely - move from the IT dept to the kindergarten, or from the hospital to a cab or a volunteer group.

I hope it this has been of some help to you .

If you feel that any of these issues affect you and if you are still having problems you may like to see out the services of a professional counsellor who has experience of working with migrants, perferably one that is a migrant themself and already understands the issues very well.

Grief the Kübler-Ross model

Culture Shock


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