Melanoma cancer, the most serious type of skin cancer, can now be detected in its early stages by a blood test developed by Australian scientists.
The breakthrough could potentially save millions of lives and significantly reduce costs to the healthcare system.
According to a statement by Edith Cowan University scientists, the test works by detecting antibodies produced by the body in response to melanoma and identifying the skin cancer cells before they spread.
They said the blood test was tried on 209 people, 105 of whom had melanoma, and it picked up early-stage melanoma
in 81.5% of the cases.
The team examined more than 1,600 different antibodies and identified a combination of 10 that were considered to be the most reliable in predicting the presence of melanoma.
Survival rates for melanoma are between 90 and 95% if the disease is detected early, but if it spreads, survival rates drop to below 50%.
Currently, melanomas are detected visually by clinicians, with any areas of concern biopsied, but three out of four biopsies return negative results, said the researchers, whose findings have also been published in the Oncotarget biomedical journal.
“Biopsies are uncomfortable for patients and expensive, with Australia spending more than $147.7 million annually, more than $51.7 million of which is accounted for by negative biopsies,” they said.