‘Fun in the sun cost me my life’

A father with just months to live says one fateful day playing cricket under the New Zealand sun left him with terminal skin cancer.

Mark Jasper pinpoints the cause of his melanoma to a day in 2001 when his back was severely burned in Tauranga.

The 41-year-old Australian, who lived here for 12 years, decided to speak out in the hope of saving others from a similar fate.

“If I can save someone’s life at least something good would come out of it,” he said from his home in England.

Jasper said he was usually extremely careful to cover up under the sun, but took off his shirt without applying sunscreen while playing beach cricket at Mt Maunganui.

He went for a routine check-up two years later and doctors found a suspicious mole which was later found to be cancerous.

The cancer was in remission for four years until last August when doctors found the cancer had spread to his bones and organs.

Doctors found five tumours on his liver and one on each lung and gave him the devastating news that the cancer was terminal and he had between six and 12 months to live.

Jasper is spending his final months in Devon, with his English wife Karen and their 2-year-old son Max.

He believes at least 90 per cent of Britons who visit New Zealand will get sunburned and said he decided to speak out to save others from a similar fate.

“You don’t realise it, even though it’s the same sort of heat in the other parts of the world, it burns you very, very quickly, even if it’s only 24 or 25 degrees.

“One of the main things I did wrong was not wearing sunscreen in the first place.

“When you’re active and doing something you don’t really think about what you’re doing. It’s cost me my life.”

Tony Reeder of the Cancer Society’s social and behavioural research unit at Otago University, said Jasper’s story was a warning to other visitors to New Zealand. Reeder said tourists, particularly from the Northern Hemisphere winter, are keen to get outdoors and on the beach during our summer, but that can come at a cost.

“Our UV levels can be 40 per cent higher here.”

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