Melanoma is our national cancer.
It affects 1 in 17 Australians, and yet setting up a formal screening program like we have for breast, cervical and bowel cancer is trickier than you might think.
Last week, the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health published a research paper outlining the benefits and issues surrounding a systematic screening program.
Developed by national and international experts at a recent Melanoma Screening Summit, it concluded a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t feasible in our current environment.
However, while there have been many positive steps forward, we need a more targeted approach focused on high risk groups.
This is because current costs of skin cancer screening are high for individuals and our community.
If we can reduce the number of people requiring skin cancer screening, it will reduce unnecessary treatments and redirect resources to people in greater need of attention.
There are also potential drawbacks to blanket screening, like over-diagnosis (detection of cancers that would never spread and cause problems), increased health anxiety, and potentially pouring health funds into programs that are clinically ineffective.
Targeted screening might be feasible in the near future with emerging new technologies like liquid biopsies, 3D imaging with artificial intelligence assessment of all skin lesions, or selecting those with high genetic risk scores.
38,000 melanomas are diagnosed in Australia annually, and more than 1,700 die from it annually.
While there’s no dedicated Australia-wide melanoma screening program at present, education and early detection of melanoma are paramount to increasing survival rates.
I’m currently studying the effectiveness of educational tools available to improve the accuracy of skin self-examinations.
We know a lot of skin cancers are first noticed by patients or their partner.
Our goal is to identify effective and understandable educational tools to help people conduct accurate skin self-examinations.”
In partnership with the Skin Cancer College Australasia, we’re looking for volunteers to participate in online focus groups so that we can understand community views around the best skin cancer educational tools.
Professor Monika Janda is a Professor in Behavioural Science, Centre for Health Services Research, at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland, and a NHMRC Translational Research Fellow (2018-20). She is a health psychologist with a research background in cancer prevention and quality of life research, with strong clinical collaborations. Her work focuses on applied health and clinical research problems, making a difference to cancer prevention, early detection and treatment outcomes.
The Melanoma Screening Summit was convened by the Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Research Centre, which is a collaboration between the University of Queensland and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.