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
Professor Georgina Long makes history as the first woman and first Australian to lead the Society for Melanoma Research
Professor Georgina Long makes history as the first woman and first Australian to lead the world’s most prestigious international melanoma research association.
Two publications co-edited by MIA Co-Medical Director Professor Richard Scolyer are now available to healthcare professionals. They aim to provide assistance in the care and management of patients with skin cancer, including melanoma.
Melanoma Institute Australia has introduced a new educational program to teach teenagers about the dangers of melanoma and the importance of sun safety.
"International collaboration remains the key to ensuring this pioneering research continues so we can increase survival rates for advanced melanoma patients and move us closer to achieving our goal of zero deaths from melanoma," says Professor Georgina Long, of the clinical trial results presented at ESMO 2018.
Research that could change clinical practice for high-risk Stage III melanoma patients has been presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress in Munich.
A larger, monthly dose of immunotherapy can give melanoma patients more freedom without sacrificing effectiveness.
The Australasian Melanoma Conference, hosted by the Australasian Melanoma Conference Committee, was held in Melbourne on the weekend, with many of MIA's clinicians in attendance.
The two men who discovered checkpoint inhibitors, the brakes of the immune system, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday, October 1.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is releasing the 4th edition of Classification of Skin Tumours.
Former Executive Director of Melanoma Institute Australia Professor John Thompson awarded the prestigious 2018 RPA Foundation Research Medal.
Clinicians, patients and other stakeholders in the cancer community are invited to make submissions in support of the PBS listing for pembrolizumab.
The World Congress on Cancers of the Skin 2018 has featured many minds from MIA sharing their expertise and wealth of knowledge with over 1000 attendees from around the world.
Melanoma Institute Australia is delighted to announce the appointment of Matthew Browne as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
It was a full house this week at Melanoma Institute Australia thanks to our ‘Melanoma in Practice: Nurse Conference’.
A new study from The University of Sydney shows that sunscreen reduces melanoma risk by 40 per cent when used from a young age.
Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) has launched a free e-learning portal to educate healthcare professionals about the latest advances in melanoma diagnosis and treatment.
When David lost his life last year, he was 33, with three daughters under six.
Clinical trials are just that – trials in a clinical setting to evaluate the effectiveness or otherwise of individual and combination treatments.
Melanoma Institute Australia scooped the award pool at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Academy of Pathology.