Mandy Johnson feels like the “luckiest person alive” after she used an online melanoma prediction tool that picked up an early stage skin cancer. Picture: Annette Dew
Mandy Johnson feels like the “luckiest person alive” after she used an online melanoma prediction tool that picked up an early stage skin cancer. Picture: Annette Dew

Online melanoma test could save your life

GOLD Coast-based author Mandy Johnson always thought she was at low risk of developing melanoma until she took a simple online test developed by Queensland researchers.

She was shocked to discover she was in the highest risk bracket for melanoma - a prophetic finding given she booked in for a skin check based on her results and was diagnosed with one of the potentially deadly skin cancers on her right upper arm.

Fortunately for her, the melanoma was caught early, before it had a chance to spread beyond the skin.

"It was the faintest little black spot," she said. "Seriously, I looked at it and thought: 'There's no way that could be a melanoma. But they sent it off and it came back as a melanoma."

Ms Johnson, the author of two business books and mother of two teenagers, said she had been for her annual skin check just six months before doing the online test.

"Usually they send me the reminder and I go about three months later," she said. "I probably wouldn't have gone back for about nine months if I hadn't done the online test."

If she had waited that long, she faced the risk of the melanoma infiltrating beyond the skin.

"I feel like the luckiest person alive," Ms Johnson said. "I've got a couple of kids. If I hadn't done the test and gone in for a skin check, it could have been a really different outcome."

 

Professor David Whiteman is co-developer of an online melanoma prediction test. Picture: Russell Shakespeare
Professor David Whiteman is co-developer of an online melanoma prediction test. Picture: Russell Shakespeare

 

The QIMR Berghofer test is for people aged 40 and over to predict their risk of developing melanoma in the next few years based on risk factors such as age, gender, ability to tan, hair colour, sunscreen use and number of moles at age 21.

Co-developer David Whiteman, head of QIMR Berghofer's cancer control group, designed the test based on a survey of about 40,000 Queenslanders, known as the QSkin study, including more than 650 people diagnosed with a melanoma.

Professor Whiteman said Ms Johnson was one of a couple of people who had written to QIMR Berghofer saying the test had prompted them to have their skin checked, resulting in a melanoma being discovered and removed.

He said more than 135,000 Australians had completed the test and about 31,000 people internationally since it was launched in March.

"Our next plan is to take this tool and use it in skin cancer clinics to see how it works in that setting," Professor Whiteman said.

He said the online test was about 70 per cent accurate. They hoped to eventually add DNA data collected from the QSkin participants to assess whether genetic information could improve the test's predictive value.

 

Mandy Johnson was diagnosed with an early stage melanoma on her arm. Picture: Annette Dew
Mandy Johnson was diagnosed with an early stage melanoma on her arm. Picture: Annette Dew

 

"The main thing is that regardless of whether people are at high or low risk, all Queenslanders should still slip, slap, slop all year round," Professor Whiteman said. "Most people living in Queensland, compared to other people, have a higher risk of melanoma just because they live here.

"The recommendation is to wear sunscreen when you're outside in Queensland during daylight hours."

To access the online prediction test: qimrberghofer.edu.au/melanomariskpredictor



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