Olympians join forces for melanoma warning

Olympians join forces for melanoma warning

13 December 2021

Jana Pittman and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor urge Australians to be sun-safe and check their skin as they join the Game On Mole campaign in support of their much-loved coach

Jackie Byrnes OAM is the woman credited with discovering and training a whole generation of Australian track stars including world champion hurdler Jana Pittman and champion sprinter Melinda Gainsford-Taylor.

The years spent trackside have taken their toll on Jackie, with the now 78-year-old revealing she is battling multiple melanomas and other skin cancers.

‘I spent 30 years earning a living as a track coach, which meant I was out in the sun a lot,’ Jackie said. ‘There was no such thing as sunscreen when I was young, and coupled with my very fair complexion, it was a recipe for disaster. Here I am now, battling multiple melanomas and other skin cancers, and want my story to be a warning to others to protect their skin from the sun.’

Jackie, who lives in Maroochydore Queensland, has undergone numerous surgeries on her face and most recently finished her last bout of radiation therapy.

‘When the doctor rang me to say a mole they cut off my ear was a melanoma, I knew I was in trouble,’ Jackie added. ‘It is amazing I am still here, and that’s why I have chosen to share my story as part of the Game On Mole campaign. If my story saves just one other person from going through what I have, then it will be all worthwhile.’

Supporting Jackie in her battle are Jana Pittman, now a doctor, and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor who is now herself an athletics coach. Both were discovered by Jackie and were part of the same training squad that saw them become Australian and world champions.

‘Jackie is like a second mum to me,’ said Melinda Gainsford-Taylor. ‘I have been really worried about her during her treatment, but she’s tough and she’s a fighter.’ Dr Jana Pittman added, ‘she instilled that same determination in us on the track, she’s an incredible woman.’

Jana and Melinda have also joined the Game On Mole awareness campaign in support of Jackie and urge all Australians to be sun safe and check their skin for changes.

‘It was the nature of our sporting careers that we all spent many long hours out in the sun, and seeing Jackie go through this is a stark reminder of the need to protect your skin from the sun and also be aware of any changes,’ said Jana.

Game On Mole is a great conversation starter about sun safety and early detection of melanoma and other skin cancers, which are key messages that all Australians need to hear,’ Melinda added.

Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), the world’s largest research and treatment institute with a single focus on melanoma and complex skin cancers, has revealed alarming figures showing the number of new patients attending the specialist centre for treatment have dropped to a 12-year low.

New patient numbers dropped by 18% in 2020 and likely 20% in 2021, compared to pre-pandemic rates (2019), sparking fears COVID lockdowns have deterred patients from seeking potentially life-saving medical treatment.

‘This drop in numbers doesn’t mean less Australians actually have melanoma, rather that they haven’t been diagnosed yet due to COVID delaying them seeking medical treatment,’ said Melanoma Institute Australia Co-Medical Director Professor Georgina Long AO.

‘If caught early 90% of melanomas can be cured with surgery alone, but if left undetected, melanoma can quickly spread to organs including the lungs, liver and brain,’ she said.

There are fears this drop in new patients may result in a spike in lives lost to the disease in the coming few years.

‘We urge all Australians to know the skin you’re in. If you notice something changing or new, we recommend seeking medical advice and having it checked out,’ added MIA Co-Medical Director Professor Richard Scolyer AO.

‘We are so grateful for the support of Jackie, Melinda and Jana for our Game On Mole campaign, as raising awareness about sun safety and early detection is critical to saving lives,’ he said.

To find out more about the Game On Mole campaign, and buy the t-shirt, go to www.gameonmole.com.au

Watch Jackie, Jana and Melinda share their message on A Current Affair: 

Jackie Byrnes OAM, Dr Jana Pittman and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor are all available for interview.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jennifer Durante – 0412 798 990   jennifer.durante@melanoma.org.au

Honouring Ben's life by supporting the next generation of melanoma researchers
30 Aug 2021

Honouring Ben's life by supporting the next generation of melanoma researchers

Ben Garrow lost his life to melanoma. In his honour his family has established a scholarship to support a PhD student whose work focuses on saving lives from melanoma.

MIA's annual Research Retreat 2021
20 Aug 2021

MIA's annual Research Retreat 2021

More than 150 clinicians, researchers and MIA staff gathered online to share research highlights.

Understanding the needs of Stage III melanoma patients when choosing treatments.
28 Jul 2021

Understanding the needs of Stage III melanoma patients when choosing treatments.

Independent researchers at The University of Sydney are seeking patient feedback.

Community Fundraising Wrap Up Apr-June 2021
21 Jul 2021

Community Fundraising Wrap Up Apr-June 2021

A re-cap of the wonderful, and often very creative, community fundraising initiatives over the April to June quarter.

Tags: melanoma
Patients paying it forward
19 Jul 2021

Patients paying it forward

Our patients who donate their tissue samples and records to our research are helping to make a difference to the lives of future melanoma patients. 

Tags: melanoma
Research boost to improve outcomes for melanoma patients
15 Jul 2021

Research boost to improve outcomes for melanoma patients

MIA researchers have recently been awarded two competitive funding grants, which will help facilitate their ground-breaking work in melanoma research.

Tags: melanoma
Amie St Clair 10th Annual Ball
25 Jun 2022

Amie St Clair 10th Annual Ball

Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Amie St Clair Melanoma at the Annual Ball in Wagga Wagga!   

Riverina Melanoma Ride
31 Mar - 07 Apr 2022

Riverina Melanoma Ride

Postponed to early 2022. Melanoma survivor Matt Kean is doing a 1000km bike ride around the Riverina to increase awareness of melanoma and raise funds for Amie St Clair Melanoma - MIA. There are many ways you can be part of this life-changing ride!

Melanoma Clinical Trial opens in Wagga
23 Jun 2021

Melanoma Clinical Trial to open in Wagga

Riverina patients gain access to potentially life saving immunotherapy treatment close to home.

Tags: melanoma
Queen's Birthday Honour for Professor Richard Scolyer
13 Jun 2021

 Queen's Birthday Honour for Professor Richard Scolyer

MIA's Prof Scolyer has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia. 

Tags: melanoma
Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting
07 Jun 2021

Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting

Research from MIA was once again in the spotlight as findings were shared at the virtual ASCO21. 

Tags: melanoma
Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment
03 Jun 2021

Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment.

In a breakthrough which could extend to the treatment of other cancers, a new immune checkpoint inhibitor has proven effective in helping save the lives of advanced melanoma patients.

Tags: melanoma
Thank you doesn't seem enough for our melanoma nurses.
28 May 2021

Thank you doesn't seem enough for our melanoma nurses.

Whilst our research and clinical teams are trialling new treatments to save lives, it is our nurses who are on the front line providing care and support.

Tags: melanoma
Sharing our knowledge of melanoma on the global stage
20 Apr 2021

Sharing our knowledge of melanoma on the global stage

As leaders in the field of melanoma, clinicians and researchers from MIA shared their knowledge at the virtual 10th World Congress of Melanoma. 

Tags: melanoma
Community Fundraising Wrap Up Jan-Mar 2021
15 Apr 2021

Community Fundraising Wrap Up Jan-Mar 2021

The easing of COVID restrictions has meant the return of community events, and we recognise the generous support of our community fundraisers.

Tags: melanoma
Melanoma patients and their families urged to speak up and put national spotlight on melanoma.
15 Apr 2021

Melanoma patients and their families urged to speak up and put national spotlight on melanoma.

Melanoma patients and their carers are being urged to participate in a ground-breaking survey which will shape the future of melanoma treatment, research, support and funding in Australia.

Tags: melanoma
Support for Melanoma March has come from everywhere
12 Apr 2021

Support for Melanoma March has come from everywhere

We have been buoyed by the wonderful support for our Melanoma March campaign, and our mission to cover Australia in footprints continues into April!

An inspiring WA Melanoma Community Forum
26 Mar 2021

An inspiring WA Melanoma Community Forum

There was a wonderful feeling of community support amongst the melanoma patients, families and friends at the WA Melanoma Community Form. 

Tags: melanoma
Family of 8-year-old with melanoma calls on all Australians to step up to help save lives
26 Mar 2021

Family of 8-year-old with melanoma calls on all Australians to step up to help save lives

The Price family has decided to share their story to inspire Australians to support research into new melanoma treatments.

Tags: melanoma
Rethinking skin surveillance for high-risk melanoma patients
18 Mar 2021

Rethinking skin surveillance for high-risk melanoma patients

New research has provided evidence in favour of a structured skin surveillance program for high-risk melanoma patients.

Tags: melanoma