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Ingrid Hipkiss’ skin-saving check up

The always-bright Ingrid Hipkiss reveals her terrifying skin cancer scare.
Ingrid Hipkiss

TV3 weather presenter Ingrid Hipkiss knows better than most the devastating damage the sun can inflict.

When she heard the word “cancer”, after her annual check-up last month, the mum of two was shocked, but incredibly thankful she listened to a gut feeling that something wasn’t right, despite doctors’ assurances there was probably nothing to worry about.

“I’d had a mole on my neck for a while,” explains Ingrid, who’s still sporting a bandage from where specialists removed a basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.

“It’s still a bit tender,” she says. “It used to catch on my necklace all the time, so I thought I should get it checked out. The doctor had actually looked at it the year before and said it was fine, but I asked for it to be cut out anyway.”

Despite her specialist’s continued reassurances that the mole was fine, Ingrid had it removed and sent away for testing. The results came back positive for cancer.

“When the doctor said, ‘Yeah, it wasn’t what we expected – we’ve found some cancer there,’ I freaked out a little,” Ingrid admits. “No-one wants to hear that word, but I just had a feeling.”

She was given the all-clear after getting the mole removed at a plastic surgeon’s office – a referral from her doctor. “I thought, ‘This is a bit fancy, and also, while I’m here…’,” she jokes.

Ingrid says she, ‘freaked out a little’ when her doctor found cancer.

Ingrid is annoyed that she didn’t get the mole checked sooner, especially as she already had two smaller basal cells removed from her back. Also, grandparents on both sides of her family had passed away from skin cancer – another warning signal.

“It had been playing on my mind for quite a few months,” she says.

“For the last five years, I’ve been pretty vigilant about getting moles looked at, but I wasn’t vigilant about sun safety in my younger years. I grew up in a beach town and fake tan was in its very early, very dodgy days! [Sun bathing] was just what everyone did.

“My dad’s mum got it on the sole of her foot, and my mum’s dad was quite olive and outdoorsy, and he got it too.”

Ingrid is much more cautious about making sure her boys Hunter (left) and Brody stay covered up under the sun.

In spite of her latest skin cancer scare, Ingrid is determined to enjoy a typical Kiwi summer, and that means plenty of trips to the beach. But the journalist concedes her attitude to sun safety will be more cautious than ever. She will be making sure her sons, Hunter (7) and Brody (3), follow the “slip, slop, slap and wrap” mantra.

“Taking the kids to the beach feels like a military operation now,” she says with a laugh.

“The boys are so great about being sun smart. At their school, if they don’t bring their hat, they’re not allowed to play outside, so they wouldn’t even think about going in the sun without one. And they’re dark too – my partner [cameraman Jack Tarrant] is Niuean. Even he’s really cautious now.”

Ingrid is urging other mums to get moles checked before summer kicks off.

“How gutted would you be if you decided to forgo someone checking you out for 20 minutes, and that decision changed your family’s lives forever?” she asks.

“Go and get checked. It’s definitely worth it.”

Slip, slop, slap and wrap:

This is still the message from Sun Smart New Zealand when it comes to safety in the sun:

Slip into a long-sleeved shirt and under the shade of an umbrella or leafy tree.

Slop on plenty of sunscreen 15 minutes before heading outside and use broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen. Reapply every two hours and after being in water or sweating.

Slap on a hat with a wide brim or a cap with flaps.

Wrap on a pair of sunglasses with 100% UV protection. The sun’s rays are most fierce between 10am and 4pm, so make sure you’re covered, and never, ever get sunburnt!

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