Australian scientists believe that they have created a blood test that is able to detect melanoma in its early stages, reports BBC News. Melanoma is responsible for 1.5 percent of all cancer deaths, with 91,270 new cases reported so far in 2018, making up 5.3 percent of new cancer diagnoses, according to National Institute of Health’s website statistics.
Researchers revealed that the purpose of this new test, which is billed as the first of its kind in the world, is to make spotting the skin cancer easier so doctors can catch it before it turns into a fatal diagnosis. Currently, melanoma is identified by skin examinations and biopsies, and if caught early, it can be treated with a high success rate. Since early detection is key, this new test could save countless lives. Because it can be hard to spot, considering some people have hundreds of moles, a blood test that can detect it sooner could be the difference between life and death.
The scientists at Edith Cowan University developed the test, which detects “melanoma by recognizing auto-antibodies produced by the body to combat the cancer’s early growth,” reports BBC News. After trying the test on 200 people, half of which had cancer, the new test successfully detected the melanoma in 81.5 percent of cases.
Researchers will now enter trials for the next three years as they try to up that percentage to 90 percent. The goal is to get their new test approved within the next five years. Professor Mel Ziman, head of the research team, explained their goal with this new diagnostic tool.
“This blood test will fit in when the patient goes to the clinic to determine whether the lesion is a melanoma. The physician could do the test first before feeling like they have to do a biopsy.”
Professor Zimon explained exactly why the early detection of such a cancer is so necessary.
“If we can remove the melanoma when it is less than 1mm thick, you have a 98-99% chance of survival,” she said. “As soon as it spreads further into the skin, survival rates drop dramatically.”
The research, which is being done in Australia, is extremely important since the incidence rates are highest there, with about 1,500 people dying from this particular form of cancer each year. Unfortunately, this new test won’t be able to pick up other types of skin cancers such as squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma, researchers said. Needless to say, health experts still want people to keep checking their skin.