Research spotlight: High Risk Clinic

Research spotlight: High Risk Clinic

10 October 2016

Early detection of melanoma is crucial for saving lives and current guidelines advise “regular monitoring” to ensure melanoma is caught early. However, until now, it had not been proven how often this should be done or what the costs and benefits would actually be in practice.

Researchers at MIA established a High Risk Clinic to monitor people at very high risk of developing melanoma. This specialised surveillance clinic examines people every six months, photographs and maps their moles via total body photography, and uses close-up sequential digital photography to observe any changes over time.

“Monitoring of changing moles is time consuming and requires highly trained staff and specific resources,” says Dr Caroline Watts, Postdoctoral Research Fellow from MIA and the School of Public Health, The University of Sydney.

“But our research has showed that for these people who develop many melanomas, close monitoring actually would save more than $6,800 per patient over 10 years. Fewer suspicious moles would be unnecessarily cut out, and the early detection of melanomas would mean less extensive surgery would be required,” she said.

The research, published today in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Oncology, will likely to lead to calls for new rebates in the Medicare Benefits Scheme to support access to clinics that can offer this form of regular monitoring by total body and close-up digital imaging. 

“This is a disciplined, low tech but expert procedure that can and should be implemented by the Australian health care system,” said Professor Graham Mann, Research Director at MIA and a Chief Investigator of the High Risk Clinic project. “It would save more lives and help reduce the costs of melanoma detection and treatment.”