New test reveals your chances of getting skin cancer

Queensland researchers have designed a new online tool that can predict your chances of developing skin cancer over the next three years.

The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane has launched the online test based on data from over 40,000 Queenslanders aged in their forties to seventies. It looks at factors such as age, gender, ability to tan, hair colour, sunscreen use and number of moles at age 21.

The results provided are used to assign users into one of five risk categories that describe the likelihood of them developing a melanoma over the next three and a half years – very much below average, below average, average, above average and very much above average.

The tool is easy to use and provides pictures of moles to help users identify theirs and fill out the test as accurately as possible.

Australia and New Zealand have the highest rate of melanoma diagnosis in the world, according to the Cancer Council Australia.

Every year, skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers in Australia, with approximately two in three Australians being diagnosed by the time they are 70.

Lead researcher, Professor David Whiteman from QIMR Berghofer, said: “This online risk predictor will help identify those with the highest likelihood of developing melanoma so that they and their doctors can decide on how to best manage their risk.

“Regular screening of those at higher risk may help detect melanomas early and hopefully before they have spread to the lower layers of the skin and other parts of the body.”

However, Professor Whiteman cautions people who receive a score of ‘below average’ to not become complacent as it doesn’t indicate a low risk – simply a risk lower than the average Australian.

Protecting yourself from the sun

Seeking a combination of sun safety measures such as sunscreen, shade, protective clothing and sunglasses are essential in the harsh Australian weather conditions. The Queensland Government recommends the use of a SPF30+ sunscreen, labelled broad spectrum and water resistant.

A Canstar Blue survey found that 91% of Australian adults claim to take sun safety seriously. However, 55% of respondents said they have experienced occasions when they have used sunscreen that didn’t work. Six out of ten (62%) trust big name brands more than cheaper alternatives, while 38% simply buy whichever sunscreen happens to be cheapest.

Infancy is the most vulnerable time of our lives with many health risks pronounced at this time. There are a number of sunscreens for babies available that aim to help protect skin without harsh chemicals. Our pets are also in a similar boat, being exposed to harmful UV rays just like humans are. Keeping pets protected with pet-safe sunscreen is also important.

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