Melanoma risk not as obvious as some think


New QIMR Berghofer research has found almost a quarter of the Queensland population underestimates their risk of developing potentially deadly melanomas – with those at highest risk also the worst at predicting their chances of getting the skin cancers.

The researchers examined data from nearly 42,000 Queenslanders who participated in the QIMR Berghofer-led QSkin study. The research findings have been published today in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

QIMR Berghofer Deputy Director and the head of the Institute’s Cancer Control Group, Professor David Whiteman, said his team asked participants to self-assess their risk of developing melanoma and compared their answers to the score generated by a QIMR Berghofer-developed risk prediction tool.

“We found almost a quarter of respondents underestimated their risk of melanoma by at least two levels. Only about 10 per cent of respondents overestimated their level of risk,” Professor Whiteman said.

“Worryingly the people mostly likely to underestimate their risk level were people who have important risk factors – particularly men over the age of 65 with fair skin, of European ancestry, a sun sensitive skin type, and with many moles.

“We were surprised to find that this group was also more likely to be university educated and have a history of skin cancer removals and treatments. This suggests they would benefit from better counselling at the time of their first skin cancer diagnosis, to ensure they are made fully aware of their future risk of developing melanoma.”

The study participants filled out a survey where they estimated how likely they thought they were to get melanoma at some time in the future. Possible answers were “Highly unlikely”, “Somewhat unlikely”, “About the same as other Queenslanders”, “Somewhat more likely” and “Highly likely”.

The researchers then used a validated melanoma risk predictor tool to assess the participants’ predicted risk.

The risk predictor tool calculates a person’s chances of developing melanoma based on their age, sex, ethnicity, family history of melanoma, ability to tan, number of moles at age 21, number of skin lesions treated, hair colour and sunscreen use. The tool classifies people into one of five risk levels compared to other people of the same age and sex: very much below average, below average, average, above average and very much above average.

First author and QIMR Berghofer researcher Associate Professor Catherine Olsen said almost 70 per cent of participants had a good idea of their risk level.

“More than 28,500 people correctly identified their risk category, or were only one category away. The problem was with the almost 25 per cent of people who weren’t close to knowing their risk level,” Associate Professor Olsen said.

“This research shows that we aren’t always well equipped to know our risks, and that we should use the proven tools available to keep ourselves safe.”

Professor Whiteman and Associate Professor Olsen said regardless of perceived melanoma risk, Australians should continue to be sun safe by covering up when outside, using sunscreen, wearing a hat and sunglasses and seeking shade. They said in the absence of population-wide screening for melanoma, it was also important for those at high risk to continue to get regular skin checks.

The research was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

The study findings can be accessed on the Journal of Investigative Dermatology website.

Health & Wellness Lifestyle Science & Research

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute :
PO Royal Brisbane Hospital, Brisbane, QLD, 4029, Brisbane
07 3845 3752
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Showing 10+ recent articles for this business
Every pregnancy helps reduce endometrial cancer risk 17 November 2020 | New QIMR Berghofer research has found each additional pregnancy a woman experiences, including those that result in miscarriage, can help reduce her risk of developing endometrial cancer. More information...
No genetic signs that hearing loss causes Alzheimer’s disease 14 October 2020 | New QIMR Berghofer and QUT research has found there is no strong genetic evidence that hearing loss causes Alzheimer’s disease, despite both conditions sharing a significant number of genetic variants. More information...
Some school anti-bullying programs may do more harm than good 23 October 2020 | New QIMR Berghofer analysis of research on school anti-bullying programs has concluded that programs that encourage bystanders to intervene may inadvertently harm the children they are aimed at protecting. More information...
Melanoma risk not as obvious as some think 20 October 2020 | New QIMR Berghofer research has found almost a quarter of the Queensland population underestimates their risk of developing potentially deadly melanomas – with those at highest risk also the worst at predicting... More information...
Study finds ways to reduce the risk of common Queensland skin tumour 08 October 2020 | New QIMR Berghofer research has found limiting sun exposure, quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol could help Queenslanders avoid developing the common skin tumour keratoacanthoma (KA). More information...
Researchers get a better grip on left and right handedness 29 September 2020 | In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers have identified 48 genetic variants that influence if a person is left-handed, right-handed or ambidextrous. More information...
New potential weapon found in battle against cancer and inflammatory diseases 24 August 2020 | QIMR Berghofer-led research has discovered the pivotal role played by an important immune system protein that, if harnessed through immunotherapy, has the potential to treat a wide range of cancers and inflamma... More information...
Brain cancer clinical trial gives hope to patients 13 August 2020 | Queensland researchers have found that patients who received a cellular immunotherapy for the deadly brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in a clinical trial on average survived longer than would have been... More information...
Pessimistic outlook on life linked to life expectancy 29 July 2020 | A new QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute study has found people who are strongly pessimistic about the future are at greater risk of dying earlier than those who are not pessimists. More information...
New keys found for unlocking head and neck cancer treatment 28 July 2020 | QIMR Berghofer scientists say the discovery of new cellular immunotherapy targets for a deadly type of head and neck cancer, caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), could lead to better survival rates. More information...

comments powered by Disqus

All articles submitted by third parties or written by My Sunshine Coast come under our Disclaimer / Terms of Service