Australian researchers said on Wednesday they have developed a blood test for melanoma in its early stages, calling it a “world first” breakthrough that could save many lives.

The scientists, from Edith Cowan University, said the test could help doctors detect skin cancer before it spreads through a person’s body. “Patients who have their melanoma detected in its early stage have a five-year survival rate between 90% and 99%,” lead researcher Pauline Zaenker said in a statement.

She added that survival rates fell to less than 50% if the cancer spread in the body. “This is what makes this blood test so exciting as a potential screening tool because it can pick up melanoma in its very early stages when it is still treatable,” Ms. Zaenker said.

The research, published in the journal
Oncotarget
on Wednesday, included a trial involving 105 patients with melanoma and 104 healthy people.

The procedure detected early stage melanoma in 79% of cases, the scientists said.

Melanoma is currently detected using a visual scan by a doctor, with areas of concern cut out surgically and biopsied.

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