Researchers have developed an online test to predict the risk of developing melanoma.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute experts developed the risk predictor using data from nearly 42,000 people aged from their forties to seventies.

It calculates the results based on seven risk factors for melanoma. These are age, sex, ability to tan, number of moles at age 21, number of skin lesions treated, hair colour and sunscreen use.

The melanoma risk predictor was developed from the world’s largest study of skin cancer and has proven highly accurate in tests.

The risk predictor is now available to the public, and can be accessed here.

Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in Australia. Cancer Australia predicts that 1,905 people will die from melanoma this year, and 14,320 new cases will be diagnosed nationally.

QIMR researcher Professor David Whiteman says the website could help reduce that toll.

“At the moment, cancer control agencies don’t recommend population-wide screening programs for melanoma. It’s up to individuals to talk to their doctors about whether they need regular skin checks,” Professor Whiteman said.

“This online risk predictor will help identify those people with the highest likelihood of developing melanoma so that they and their doctors can decide how to best manage their risk.

“Regular screening of those at highest risk may help to detect melanomas early, and hopefully before they’ve spread to the lower layers of the skin and other parts of the body.

“Last year a QIMR Berghofer study found that melanoma cost the Australian healthcare system $201 million in 2017.

“We hope that by identifying those who might benefit from regular skin checks, the online melanoma risk predictor will help to ease pressure on the healthcare system,” Professor Whiteman said.

It is not meant to replace traditional checks.

“We have tested our online risk predictor thoroughly and found that it is accurate at predicting a person’s risk of developing melanoma,” Professor Whiteman said.

“Nonetheless, people should be aware that the tool provides only an estimate of future risk and it is not a substitute for getting their skin checked by a doctor.

“We encourage people to use it as a general guide, and if it says you have a high risk of melanoma, we strongly encourage you to visit your doctor and discuss whether a skin check would benefit you.”