Opinion: Outing Melanoma
24 February 2016
Melanoma strikes Susie Maroney. An Australian golden girl who made the seas her element has the misfortune to encounter an Australian fact of life and one of our best-kept national secrets. We have the world’s highest rates of melanoma, 12 times the global average. The tragedy is that melanoma is 95% preventable, but we in Australia have a passionate love affair with the sun and just don’t like to talk about the downside. At 41, Susie is young, a mother with three children who needs to have many years ahead of her. She has overcome many obstacles in her life thus far and we hope melanoma will simply be another one.
Treatment for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, has made marathon progress in the past five years, much of it led by Australian clinicians and researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia. Previously, the only treatment for melanoma was surgery. Today, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and radiotherapy have claimed their places as additional disciplines. A tripling of life expectancy has been achieved for people with advanced disease. While the research effort turbocharges, to prevent melanoma we have to go back to the basics.
If there is one message we would like to reach the public, it is that melanoma is the most common cancer amongst 15-39 year olds. And in 20-34 year olds it kills more young Australians than any other cancer. No one is bullet-proof. Melanoma can manifest anywhere: it’s not always a changing mole on your back, such as Susie found. It can appear on the soles of your feet, the palms of your hands, under the hair on your scalp, even under a toenail or a tattoo. And you won’t know it’s there.
An Omnipoll we recently commissioned revealed that 39 percent of Australians aged 18–34 have never had a skin check and 78% have not had one in the past year. If you’re over 20 in Australia today, you should have an initial skin check by a GP or at a skin check clinic. They can then advise, based on your personal risk factors, how often your skin needs to be checked from head to toe in the future. If melanoma is caught early, it is now very treatable.
At 17, Susie was the youngest swimmer to cross the English Channel both ways and went on to capture many more records. She has declared that during her many, many kilometres in the ocean, she did not wear sunscreen. Regular use of sunscreen and covering up with UV-protective fabrics goes a long way. On land, broad-brimmed hats and wrap-around sunglasses also help as does taking shelter in shade.
Let’s bring melanoma out of the shadows.
Chief Executive Officer, Melanoma Institute Australia
The 2021 Australasian Melanoma Conference (AMC2021) will held in Sydney, Australia.
Drug therapy set to become standard treatment in high-risk early stage patients to stop disease spread
Prof Long AO has been recognised by Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences for her transformative work advancing melanoma treatments.
COVID restrictions continue to impact fundraising for melanoma services in Riverina.
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.
More than 150 clinicians, researchers and MIA staff gathered online to share research highlights.
Independent researchers at The University of Sydney are seeking patient feedback.
A re-cap of the wonderful, and often very creative, community fundraising initiatives over the April to June quarter.
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.
MIA researchers have recently been awarded two competitive funding grants, which will help facilitate their ground-breaking work in melanoma research.
Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Amie St Clair Melanoma at the Annual Ball in Wagga Wagga!
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!
Riverina patients gain access to potentially life saving immunotherapy treatment close to home.
MIA's Prof Scolyer has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia.
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.
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.
The easing of COVID restrictions has meant the return of community events, and we recognise the generous support of our community fundraisers.
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.