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
A landmark study led by MIA's Dr Willmott is making a difference to melanoma treatment around the globe.
The highly anticipated annual list is the “who’s who” of the scientific elite from across the globe.
The uniquely Aussie awareness campaign ‘Game On Mole’ is back for its second year – with a new look but same important message.
Professor Richard Scolyer receives The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Distinguished Fellow Award.
Professor Long cites as a highlight of her 2-year Presidency, the phenomenal research output by SMR members who have continued to lead the cancer field despite the impact of COVID-19.
Join in the fun of the virtual event, and together we can run over melanoma!
Melanoma Institute Australia features prominently in the latest ‘Expertise in Melanoma’ world rankings, released by Expertscape.
Participate in our online survey and help us understand the support needs of melanoma patients and carers.
Clinicians and their patients now have access to three online risk calculators developed by researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia.
MIA's Co-Medical Director Professor Richard Scolyer has received The University of Sydney Alumni Award for International Achievement.
More than 120 MIA clinicians, researchers and staff came together online to share research highlights.
For the 2nd consecutive year, MIA's Co-Medical Director Professor Richard Scolyer has been selected in the top 100 best, brightest, and most powerful advocates of pathology by The Pathologist.
As of Monday 27th July all patients and carers/family members coming into The Poche Centre will be required to bring their own mask.
In a recent issue of Cancer Cell journal, Prof Georgina Long AO and Prof Richard Scolyer discuss the challenge of bringing together clinical work and scientific research to underpin successful cancer research.
Clinicians around the world now have access to a new online calculator that predicts the risk that a patient’s primary melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Professor Long has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia (General Division) for distinguished service to medicine, particularly, to melanoma clinical and translational research, and to professional medical societies.
“I had a complete response within about six months. All of my tumours disappeared."
‘We are extremely proud of our ongoing contribution to the global effort to save lives from melanoma, with Dr Silva’s prestigious award proof that we continue to lead the way,'
MIA's Co-Medical Director, Professor Richard Scolyer, has achieved a Google Scholar h-index of 100.