Professor Georgina Long and Professor Richard Scolyer: Co-Medical Directors, Melanoma Institute Australia take a look at how prevention and research are tackling our national cancer.
Another hot Aussie summer is upon us – and with it comes a stark reminder to protect your skin from the sun and sunburn.
Australia continues to have one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world with an estimated 14,000 cases diagnosed every year. Sadly, melanoma kills one Australian every five hours and is the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39 year olds. Melanoma has become our national cancer.
Despite these statistics, too many Australians remain complacent when it comes to practicing sun-safety. Remembering to protect your skin and wear sunscreen – not only at the beach but also during everyday activities like driving or spending your lunch break outside – should be a priority for every Australian.
Being sun-safe and applying sunscreen should be as automatic as putting on your seatbelt. It is a simple habit that could save your life.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes changes to your skin’s DNA. It is this UV damage that causes 95% of melanoma – pretty clear proof that prevention is crucial to avoiding it.
So how can you best protect your skin? There are fivevery simple ways you can stay safe in the sun this summer:
- Seek shade, especially in the hottest part of the day
- Wear sun-protective clothing that covers your back, shoulders, arms and legs
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your ears, neck and face
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50+ every 2 hours and after swimming and exercise
FACTS ABOUT MELANOMA
IT is the most deadly form of skin cancer as it can spread via the lymphatic and blood system to other parts of the body including the brain, liver, and bones. Early detection is vital, as 90% of melanomas are successfully treated with surgery if caught early. That’s why it is so important that everyone is aware of their own skin and seeks medical advice if they notice any changes.
Advances in research in recent years have transformed treatment for advanced melanoma patients. We’ve discovered how to leverage a patient’s immune system to kill the cancer cells in both early and advanced stages of melanoma, with these treatments tripling the life expectancy for some advanced melanoma patients and essentially curing others.
Sadly and frustratingly, there are still a group of patients who are resistant to these treatments, with their melanoma progressing rapidly. An important area of research undertaken by the team at Melanoma Institute Australia focuses on why this sub-set of patients develops resistance to treatments that are proving life saving for others. We are proud to have recently been awarded the prestigious GSK Award for Research Excellence. This award will help us to continue this vital work to save more lives and move closer to our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.
However, while treatments continue to improve, prevention remains the best way to protect yourself from melanoma. So this summer, stay safe in the sun every day. It just may save your life.
Professor Georgina Long is Co-Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), and Chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research at MIA and Royal North Shore Hospital, The University of Sydney.
Professor Long leads an extensive clinical trials team and laboratory at MIA, with a focus on targeted therapies and immuno-oncology in melanoma. Professor Long has authored over 135 peer-reviewed publications, presented her work at international conferences and received a number of awards for her ground-breaking research. She is President for the prestigious international Society for Melanoma Research, is Chair of the ASCO Scientific Committee for melanoma and skin cancer, is medical oncology lead for the Australian Melanoma Management Guidelines Committee, is on the editorial boards of several high-impact journals, and is a member of the Melanoma Expert Panel for AJCC Cancer Staging System 8th edition.
Professor Richard Scolyer is Co-Medical Director and Consultant Pathologist at Melanoma Institute Australia; Senior Staff Specialist, Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney; and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney.
He is the world’s leading melanoma pathologist, each year receiving more than 2,000 cases for review and opinion from around the world. He effectively integrates his clinical practice with leading an award-winning translational melanoma research laboratory. According to Thomson Reuters ISI Web of Knowledge, Professor Scolyer is the highest-ever published scientist in the world in the field of melanoma pathology, co-authoring more than 500 publications in prestigious journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Nature, Cell, Nature Genetics, Lancet Oncology, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Cancer Discovery. He is Vice Chair of the Melanoma Expert Panel of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) for the 8th edition of AJCC Cancer Staging System, most recently co-editing the new WHO Classification of Skin Tumours, 4th Edition. Professor Scolyer has also presented on more than 300 occasions at conferences throughout the world.
The GSK Award for Research Excellence is one of the most prestigious awards available to the Australian medical research community, recognising outstanding achievements with potential importance to human health and Australian research.