Health Risky business: spotting skin cancer before it spreads

Risky business: spotting skin cancer before it spreads

A set of risk factors that could help doctors catch melanoma at an early stage has been pinpointed by University of Sydney research.

The incidence of melanoma is increasing in predominantly white-skinned populations and Australia’s incidence is among the highest in the world.

The researchers sought to improve the identification and treatment of patients with a higher risk of melanoma by taking a closer look at their risk factors.

Thirty-nine per cent of patients were found to be at higher risk because they had multiple primary melanomas, lots of moles or a family history of the disease.

The most common risk factor in this group was having many moles, followed by a personal history and a family history.

Researchers found that, on average, higher-risk patients were diagnosed at a younger age.

They also found that the location of the melanomas varied depending on the risk factor: on the torso for those with many moles; on the limbs for those with a family history; and on the head and neck for those with a personal history.

“The results of our study suggest that a person’s risk factor status might be used to tailor their surveillance program in terms of starting age and education about skin self-examination or more intensive surveillance,” said lead researcher Caroline Watts.

“For instance, doctors could encourage people with many moles or with a family history of melanoma to start skin self-examination and monitoring at an earlier age than other people, and discuss the body sites that require particular attention.”

You can read more about this research here. [Story credit: University of Sydney newsroom.]

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