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New skin cancer expert kept on his toes and loving every minute
Skin Institute
February 29, 2016

Dr Martin Denby, the latest skin cancer doctor to join the Skin Institute team in Auckland, considers himself a perfectionist when it comes to skin cancer diagnosis and surgical skills.

“There is an art to what I do, as well as science, which I enjoy. Biological variation is infinite, so diagnosing skin cancer and melanoma is challenging – nature keeps me on my toes!” he says. “We have great tools these days to help us diagnose it though, (dermatoscopes – skin microscopes) and skin cancer work involves digital photography, which I love. It also involves surgical skills, which is very satisfying work. I love my job and have no problem going to work!”


Catching it early is key

When Dr Martin Denby met “John” a couple of months ago, the 50 year old had never had a skin check. Martin discovered a regressing melanoma on his back.

“This means his immune system (white blood cells) was engulfing his melanoma. If left, the melanoma would have disappeared completely from his skin.”

While this sounds like a good thing, Martin says the melanoma wouldn’t have disappeared from John’s system entirely.

“In this case, three to four years down the track John would have developed metastatic melanoma, but no primary tumour would have been found,” says Martin. “By catching this early and removing it, he was cured. The message here is get checked because we have one of the highest melanoma rates in the world and it can be deadly if not caught in the early stages.”


A passion for skin cancer diagnosis and treatment

Trained as a GP and managing skin cancer within general practice over the last 15 years, Martin says he’s always wanted to work purely in the skin cancer field and the Skin Institute is a natural fit.

“I have a masters degree in skin cancer and I’ve worked with Dr Marcus Platts-Mills (one of the owners of the Skin Institute) at Silverdale Medical for many years,” he says. “In fact, he’s largely been responsible for inspiring me to sub-specialise in skin cancer. I’ve also known and trained with some of the other doctors and specialists at the Skin Institute who are great people and are some of the top in their fields.”

Primary care and preventative medicine is Martin’s area of interest and expertise and he’s trained in dermatoscopy, diagnosing and treating skin cancer early.

“I recently audited over 1,000 of my surgical cases and of the melanomas that I’ve removed, 93% of them were caught early. That is to say, the patient was cured.”

Martin’s also had experience working at the Palm Clinic in Remuera and Waitemata DHB.

“I started doing skin surgery for Waitemata DHB in 2014 and over recent months I’ve been lucky enough to work with surgeons Richard Martin and Katherine Gale at Waitakere Hospital,” he says. “They’ve kindly been teaching me more advanced surgical techniques, which has been excellent.”


I’m in ‘the perfect job’

Dr Denby’s history as a GP means he’s completely at home when it comes to talking to patients.

“I’ve done 15 years of general practice. I think this makes me a well-rounded doctor and a good communicator. I’m very approachable and I listen,” he says.“When people need treatment, I tell them all the facts and show them pictures that I’ve accrued over the years; before and after photos of my surgeries to allay their fears.”

Martin says the best part of his job is gaining the trust of his patients.

“Diagnosing a melanoma then removing it is very satisfying because the vast majority of people I see are 100% cured when they are treated. It’s a privilege to be in a position to do this type of work. You can really make a difference to people’s lives,” he says. “Once you’ve diagnosed and treated someone, they become very trusting and send their families and friends to you. You develop a bond. That’s the best part of my job.”

To make an appointment for a free spot check at the Skin Institute, phone 0800 SKIN DR (754 637) or enquire online.