Increasing risk-based screening to catch melanoma early

A study published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology has found that the use of an electronic survey undertaken in GP waiting rooms is a practical way to identify patients at increased risk of melanoma, informing a more personalised and targeted approach to screening.

The study was led by PhD Candidate Emily Habgood, of Professor Jon Emery’s Cancer in Primary Care group, based at the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research.

Melanoma is a huge problem in Australia, with the highest incidence of the cancer worldwide. As numbers continue to increase, so does the need for improved methods of early detection and treatment. Providing advice and screening aligned with an individual’s risk level can help to achieve this.

But how can risk level be identified in an efficient, effective and uniform way in GP offices across the country?

Using MelatoolsQ, participants were recruited from two general practices and provided with a survey on an iPad. Some of the information collected included the number of moles and density of freckles on participants arms and the number of severe sunburns before they were 18 years old. A personalised score was then calculated. The study achieved a high response rate with a low number of patients needing assistance to complete the survey.

Ms Habgood said that implementation of this survey would capture nearly 60% of melanomas, informing a more targeted and frequent screening for prevention and surveillance.

“This study has shown that a risk stratified tool is an effective way to identify people in primary care for more targeted screening and prevention.”

These findings will help inform a larger study in the future, in line with national Australian RACGP guidelines recommending that general practitioners identify people at increased risk of melanoma.