Last year, nearly 14,000 Australians were diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. A new tool, designed to predict the risk of developing melanoma, has just been released by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. It only takes a minute to predict your risk of disease in the next 3.5 years.
Australians gets a lot of sun, so it follows that our incidence of melanoma is incredibly high. Melanoma is one of the most common form of cancers in Australia and it is estimated that 10 percent of all cancer diagnoses in 2018 will be for melanoma.
The disease affects a specific cell type – a melanocyte – that produces melanin which is responsible for skin colouration. Melanocytes are found in bottom layer of your epidermis, but may also be found in other parts of the body, such as the eye or ear. When UV radiation damages the DNA within melanocytes, they can begin to grow out of control, forming a tumour.
Early on, tumour growth will be maintained within a small area less than a millimetre thick, but once the tumour begins to grow large enough to cross into the bloodstream, melanoma becomes far more dangerous.
That’s why early detection is key in a positive prognosis.
The tool, which you can find here, asks a series of questions such as your location, ethnic background, age bracket and how many moles you had when you were 21 years of age. It only takes a minute to complete.
There are a few caveats: The tool was designed by taking data from cohorts of patients aged 40 to 70 years of age and is less useful for younger demographics. It also does not estimate any risks associated with developing other forms of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, and should not be used to predict their risk.
At the end of the short survey, the tool hands down a result that lists your level of risk: “Very Much Below Average”, “Below Average”, “Average”, “Above Average” and “Very Much Above Average”. Based on this information, those that return predictions that put them “above average” in regards to other Australians are recommended to check their skin regularly and if they notice anything unusual – to see their doctor.
The tool is not recommended to be used in place of getting skin checks by a doctor. Instead, it should function as providing a robust estimate of any potential risks.