Soon, You Might Be Able To Check For Skin Cancer With A Simple Blood Test

This could save so many lives.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The World Health Organization reports that "the incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past decades," and that  every year, there are between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers globally. 

Melanoma — caused when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells trigger mutations that result in malignant tumors — is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The growths are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun's rays or tanning beds, and a person's survival rate drops significantly if the damaged cells spread to other parts of the body.

The rise in cases is thought to be linked to ozone level depletion that allows for more solar UV radiation to reach the Earth's surface. When skin is not properly protected, the harmful rays can cause damage and potentially lead to skin cancer.

In the fight to eradicate skin cancer, Australian researchers have made a significant breakthrough by developing an experimental blood test to detect melanoma.

According to CNN, scientists at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia published their study on Tuesday, July 17 in the Oncotarget journal. Out of 245 samples from patients with and without melanoma, researchers could identify people with melanoma at 79 percent accuracy, and those without it at 84 percent accuracy.

Professor Mel Ziman, co-author of the paper and a melanoma researcher from Edith Cowan University, told BuzzFeed News that the test could be very helpful in the early stages of diagnosis.

"We could help to provide diagnostic certainty at earlier stages to prevent people from going [to the doctor] at later stages [of the cancer] because they don't have [their skin] checked more regularly, or they don't identify it early enough," he explained.

Given that the test is a simple blood test, people might be more receptive to taking it as opposed to having a more invasive biopsy.

More research and clinical trials will be needed until the blood test can be available to the public. BBC News reports that such trials will take place in the next few years with the goal to improve its accuracy to 90 percent. 

Researchers are hoping that the test could be approved for use within five years.

It's a significant step forward, but there are still preventative measures we can take right now to avoid sun damage and skin cancer. 

There are key sunscreen tips to follow including making sure you're applying sunscreen to all areas of your body including the scalp, ears, feet, and hands. What's more, it's essential that sunscreen is reapplied every two hours or immediately after swimming or any vigorous sweaty exercise. And it's important to follow the rules even in the shade or when it's cloudy.

The CDC also suggests looking beyond sunscreen. Increase protection with sunglasses, hats, and more layers of clothing. There are a number of lifestyle products that make it easy to protect all areas of the body from clothes offering SPF protection to easy-to-apply sunscreen hair mists. One day, we might even be able to get sun protection from gummies.

Cover image via FotoDuets I Shutterstock

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