Australian scientists claim to have developed a breakthrough blood test that can detect skin cancer in the early stages and considerably improve patient outcome.
Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer and the rate of incidence is currently on the rise. While the ozone layer shields against most of the harmful UV rays coming from the Sun, continued exposure and a history of sunburns increase the risk considerably. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 130.000 new cases are discovered each year.
There are a number of testing methods currently used, including visual examination (usually with using dermoscopy) or reflectance confocal microscopy, though not always reliable. Even the most trusted way of taking a skin sample for biopsy cannot detect melanoma in the initial stages and can be quite uncomfortable and expensive.
A team from the Melanoma Research Group at Edith Cowan University in Perth, lead by Professor Mel Ziman, has announced that it has developed a routine blood test that improves melanoma screening. Following a trial that involved 209 participants, the test was able to correctly pick up early stage melanoma in 81.5 per cent of cases.
Their approach takes advantages of the fact that the body starts producing auto-antibodies at the first signs of abnormal cell production. If identified soon, melanoma has a high survival rate, upwards of 90%, though the chances drop dramatically for patients with later stages.
At the moment, the test can only detect this type of skin cancer, but doctors hope that these sort of advances will also create awareness and people will be more inclined to have regular checks.