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Will a new blood test revolutionize the diagnosis of skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a disease that affects more and more people. Early diagnosis significantly improves the chances of successful treatment. Scientists in Australia have now developed the world's first blood test that is able to detect skin cancer before it spreads to the body.
In their current study, Edith Cowan University researchers developed a blood test that detects skin cancer before the disease can spread to the body. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Oncotarget".
New blood test could avoid costly biopsies
The new blood test could enable early detection of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and increase the chances of effective treatment. It can also help prevent invasive and costly biopsies, the study's authors explain.
Distinguishing between melanoma and birthmarks is difficult
The blood test is much more accurate than the current method of diagnosing this form of cancer. The diagnosis usually involves an examination by a doctor. This looks at the skin and existing moles in the patient. If the birthmarks have changed or enlarged significantly, a sample is often taken for a more detailed examination. But early-stage melanoma can often be difficult to distinguish from a birthmark, the experts explain.
How does the test work?
Although doctors can do a good job with the existing means, the use of biopsies alone can be problematic, explains study author Pauline Zaenker from Edith Cowan University. However, the body begins to produce antibodies as soon as melanoma develops. With this, the cancer can be detected at a very early stage with the new blood test. No other type of biomarker in the blood can detect cancer in these early stages, the expert adds.
Melanomas spread to other parts of the body
Melanomas, which are typically caused by sun exposure, can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, and brain, if not detected. These secondary melanomas can then be more dangerous and difficult to treat.
Blood test detects over 81 percent of cases with illness
The new blood test was done on 245 people with cancer at an early stage. The test recognized the disease in 81.5 percent of all cases. Detection of melanoma before spread can lead to a five-year survival rate of 90 to 99 percent, but the survival rate of people with secondary forms is less than 50 percent, the researchers say.
Melanomas need to be diagnosed earlier
The experts explain that the test could be used for routine screening of people at higher risk of melanoma - such as those with a large number of birthmarks, pale skin or a family history of the disease. It is important that melanoma is diagnosed more accurately and earlier, says study author Professor Mel Ziman from Edith Cowan University. The new blood test could help with this identification, especially for early melanoma.
Which people get skin cancer frequently?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), skin cancer is more common in Caucasians, especially people with pale skin or lots of freckles, blonde or red hair, or blue eyes. They may need screening using the new test. The researchers are planning further clinical trials and believe that the test may be available in three to five years. (as)