Melanoma is one of the biggest cancer killers in Australia and is of particular concern to people over the age of 60.
It is the fourth most common cancer in Australia, with 1,905 people expected to die from melanoma this year and a further 14,320 new cases to be diagnosed nationally.
Baby Boomers will now benefit from a new online risk protector tool that will be able to estimate someone’s melanoma risk over the next three to four years. Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Queensland have developed an online test for people aged 40 and over to predict their risk of developing melanoma in the near future.
The test was created by Professor David Whiteman and Dr Catherine Olsen, who used data from 42,000 people aged from their 40s to 70s. The test asks questions surrounding risk factors for melanoma and calculates the likelihood of developing skin cancer based on the answers.
These factors include age, sex, ability to tan, number of moles at age 21, number of skin lesions treated, hair colour and sunscreen use. The new predictor was developed from the world’s largest study of skin cancer and is highly accurate with the results.
Whiteman said the test is now live and ready for people over the age of 40 to use.
“At the moment, cancer control agencies don’t recommend population-wide screening programs for melanoma. It’s up to individuals to talk to their doctors about whether they need regular skin checks,” Whiteman said in a statement.
“This online risk predictor will help identify those people with the highest likelihood of developing melanoma so that they and their doctors can decide how to best manage their risk. Regular screening of those at highest risk may help to detect melanomas early, and hopefully before they’ve spread to the lower layers of the skin and other parts of the body.”
He added that people weren’t always able to detect melanoma without medical assistance. “Importantly, in this study, we found that people’s actual risk of melanoma was quite different to their own assessment,” he said. “This highlights the importance of getting personalised advice on your melanoma risk, because it could well be different to your perceived risk.”
Melanoma cost the Australian healthcare system $201 million in 2017 and Whiteman explained that the new test could ease pressure on the system.
“We hope that by identifying those who might benefit from regular skin checks, the online melanoma risk predictor will help to ease pressure on the healthcare system,” he said.
The researchers added that the online tool only provides an estimate and that people should still get regular check-ups with their health professionals. The test should be used as a guide in addition to practicing safe skincare in the sun.