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
MIA leads the world-first study that finds anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab increases the survival of patients
This is a landmark study, the first in a class of drugs that will change the future of treatment for all cancers.
Australia is the first country in the world to register anti-PD1 for the first line treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma in adults.
We have a winner!
Professor John Thompson, Executive Director at Melanoma Institute Australia, was one of 116 fellows appointed to the new Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences at a ceremony in Canberra on the 25th March.
Federal Minister for Health, the Hon. Sussan Ley, announced more than $14 million in funding for a research program to study the molecular determinants of risk, progression and treatment response in melanoma.
If you would like to download a bib for your Melanoma March, we have a selection for you to choose from, print and bring along with you on the day.
Manly Melanoma March has changed to a new location.
We did a short Q&A with two sisters who are raising funds for Melanoma March after sadly losing their mother in 2009. This is their second march and they have shared with us their fundraising tips.
We want to share with you what your valuable Melanoma March donation and fundraising goes towards and our Research Director, Graham Mann explains the national research project the funds will be going towards.
Evaluation of Groin Lymphadenectomy Extent for Metastatic Melanoma (EAGLE FM) clinical trial has recruited its first patient.
You are invited to provide comments for consideration by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC). The PBAC will consider the registration of the anti-PD1 drug, Keytruda (pembrolizumab) at the next meeting in March.
Melanoma patient Joel Allsop was congratulated today on completing his participation in the international surgical clinical trial, known as MSLT-II. He was the first person in the world to complete the 10 years of follow-up for this trial.
Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) has officially launched the 2015 ‘Melanoma March’ initiative in Melbourne.
Help us march towards a cure for melanoma research. See where your local march is and how you can get involved.
Under the leadership of world-leading melanoma pathologist Prof Richard Scolyer and medical oncologist A/Prof Georgina Long, third year PhD student, Hojabr Kakavand, is at the forefront of melanoma research.
Melanoma Institute Australia has launched a new smartphone app called ClinTrial Refer Melanoma to help busy clinicians find clinical trials for their melanoma patients.
MIA's Associate Professor Georgina Long and stage 4 melanoma patient, Maria, were recently interviewed by ABC Weekend Breakfast about the latest in clincial trials and melanoma treatments.
Sunbed campaigner, Jay Allen, has been acknowledged on the honour roll of Australia’s most influential people in the non-profit sector.
Today we launch the website we’ve dreamed about!