The 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. Professor Whiteman said the team plan to trial the online melanoma risk predictor among skin cancer doctors and their patients to test how it performs in the clinic.
Melanoma is a potentially fatal cancer that usually arises from the skin’s pigment cells (melanocytes) that give skin its colour. Melanomas appear as moles or freckles that change colour, size or shape, or more rarely as non-healing sores. Although less common that other types of skin cancer, melanomas are more dangerous because of their tendency to metastasize to other parts of the body if not treated early before deeper skin invasion. Like most cancers, the earlier melanoma is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance of preventing it from spreading throughout the body and causing serious illness or death. Even more importantly, melanoma of the skin is largely a preventable cancer: an estimated 65% of melanomas in Australia can be attributed to the high levels of ambient ultraviolet (UV) radiation in our sunlight, and at least 10-15% are preventable through sun protection measures such as regular use of sunscreen.
Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have developed an online test for people aged 40 and over to predict their risk of developing melanoma over the next 3.5 years. Professor David Whiteman and Dr Catherine Olsen developed the risk predictor using data from nearly 42,000 people aged from their forties to seventies. It calculates the results based on seven risk factors for melanoma. These are age, sex, ability to tan, number of moles at age 21, number of skin lesions treated, hair colour and sunscreen use.
A research team at QIMR Berghofer led an Australian-first study that found that 38% of cancer deaths in Australia each year are potentially preventable. The findings mean that about 16,700 cancer deaths each year could be potentially avoided through lifestyle changes. Our Guide to Reduce Your Cancer Risk highlights QIMR Berghofer’s cutting-edge research into cancer causes and potentially preventable lifestyle factors. It further provides tips on improving your overall health and reducing your risk of cancer sourced from leading health advocacy groups.