New online melanoma risk calculators critical to saving lives

New online melanoma risk calculators critical to saving lives

28 August 2020

Clinicians and their patients now have access to a series of online calculators which will assist in prevention, early detection and optimum treatment of melanoma, ultimately saving lives.

Developed by researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia and based on published risk prediction models, the three web-based calculators are housed on a new Melanoma Risk website launched today.

They predict a person’s risk of developing their first melanoma; their risk of developing a second or subsequent primary melanoma; and their risk of a primary melanoma having spread to nearby lymph nodes.

MIA Co-Medical Directors, Professor Richard Scolyer and Professor Georgina Long AO, said the risk calculators were the latest in the growing arsenal of early detection tools and ground-breaking treatments which they believed would culminate in achieving zero deaths from melanoma this decade.

‘Awareness, prevention, early detection and optimum treatment are key when it comes to tackling melanoma and saving lives from this disease,’ said Professor Richard Scolyer.

‘The online risk calculators are designed to inform discussions between clinicians and patients; two promote prevention and tailored skin surveillance programs for early detection and the third facilitates specialised treatment plans according to the specific patient’s risk,’ he said.

‘The development of these wonderful online tools is testament to the great work of many of our researchers and clinicians at MIA and will move us closer to reaching zero deaths from melanoma,’ added Professor Georgina Long AO.

Currently, Australia has one of the highest melanoma rates in the world with one person diagnosed every 30 minutes and one person dying every five hours from the disease.

The launch of the calculators comes amidst concerns the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused Australians to delay seeking checkups for melanoma and other cancers where early detection is vital for optimum outcomes.

Two of the calculators use patient information such as age, skin type, family history and sun exposure history to calculate individual lifetime risk of a person developing either their initial primary melanoma or a subsequent one. This information then guides discussions between the patient and the clinician about appropriate sun protection behaviours as well as the optimum schedule of skin checks to ensure early detection.

The third calculator predicts risk of disease having spread from a primary melanoma to nearby lymph nodes, and potentially metastasising to other vital organs. It takes into account additional clinical information about the primary melanoma as well as a patient’s age.

This calculator enables those deemed to be at low risk of disease spread to safely forgo surgery for a sentinel node biopsy. Conversely, it also detects patients at higher risk of disease spread, increasing potential for earlier identification of lymph node spread and activation of optimum treatment.

‘This calculator predicting risk of disease spread is particularly of benefit to older patients who are less likely to have melanoma spread to their lymph nodes, but who are at increased risk of complications that can come from additional surgery and general anaesthesia,’ added Professor Long AO.

The three web-based calculators can be accessed at www.melanomarisk.org.au

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