Please explain your area of research and what it is that you do.
My research area is cancer epidemiology. This ranges from studying variations in cancer incidence and mortality rates in different countries and populations, to researching the causes, prevention and natural history of certain cancers. My particular focus is melanoma and common skin cancers.
What motivated you to become involved in this particular area of research?
Epidemiology is public health research. It allows you to take a step back from studying individual patients with diseases like cancer (as treating doctors do) and look at the collective big picture. We study who develops certain cancers and explore why – by assessing their characteristics and lifetime exposures. I am especially motivated to study modifiable causes of certain cancers, so we can be in a better position to prevent their occurrence.
Briefly explain an interesting discovery that you have made and why it is significant.
The long-term, regular application of sunscreen can prevent certain types of skin cancer. Skin cancer is a very real problem in this country. Evidence that regular use of sunscreens can decrease the risk of major skin cancers (and associated skin lesions and premature skin aging) means we can more confidently recommend sunscreens to people for effective skin protection. Preventing skin cancer improves the quality of life in the long term for fair-skinned people in Australia, Europe and America, and health systems benefit through decreases in the substantial treatment costs.
How does your research help regular people?
It provides them with insights into the causes of skin cancers, and causes of associated skin tumours (‘sun spots’) and of premature aging of their skin. It shows people what they can do to potentially lower their risks of these conditions; and if people are personally affected by these cancers, it shows them the course and outcomes that people of their age and sex might expect to experience.
How do you feel about being made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science?
I am very honoured to join the illustrious Academy, and delighted that work in preventive medical research is being recognised and valued alongside achievements in more traditional and more visible scientific disciplines.
Reproduced courtesy of the Australian Academy of Science.