What are the risk factors?
Australia - 'the sunburnt country' - has among the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world with a lifetime risk of invasive melanoma of 1 in 14 for males and 1 in 22 for females (to age 85).
Using this calculator, you can calculate your risk of developing skin melanoma within the next 5 years.
Health professionals can use this calculator to calculate their patient's risk of developing skin melanoma within the next 5 years.
People can be at greater risk of melanoma if they have one or more of the following:
- large numbers of moles
- large, irregularly shaped and unevenly coloured moles called dysplastic naevi
- previous melanomas
- many severe sunburns
- other people in the family who have had melanoma (a ‘family history’)
Each time your unprotected skin is exposed to the sun’s UV radiation or other sources of UV radiation such as solariums, the UV radiation causes changes to take place in the structure of the cells and in what they do.
Too much UV radiation causes the skin to become permanently damaged. The damage worsens with more UV radiation. The most important years for sun protection are during childhood. Sunburn and overexposure to UV radiation during these years greatly increase the chance of melanoma.
Melanoma is common in people with naturally fair complexions who are exposed to higher levels of UV radiation than their skin can protect them against. People with naturally darker skins (for example, Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders) are much better protected against UV radiation but can still get melanomas.
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Each year about 1,700 people in Victoria are diagnosed with melanoma. Melanoma is diagnosed most often in older adults, but it also sometimes occurs in younger adults and occasionally in teenagers. It is rarely seen in children.
About the calculator
This calculator was made possible by generous support from Emily's Foundation.
Researchers at the Victorian Melanoma Service developed this melanoma risk prediction tool for the Australian context based on the best available evidence for individual risk factors. This tool may be updated as new information becomes available.
Factors not considered
Australian immigrants may be at lower risk of melanoma compared to individuals born in Australia. Age at arrival in Australia is thought to be the main factor affecting level of risk in immigrants.
Melanoma risk is very low for indigenous Australians as well as immigrants with skin phototype IV to VI. Our tool provides a crude guide only for such individuals.
Phototype and sun exposure history
Inability to tan has been shown to have the strongest relationship to melanoma of all non-naevus risk factors, however, it tells us little about sun protection behaviour. We do know that UV exposure correlates well with latitude. Given that tanning ability and sun exposure history are prone to recall and reporting bias, we selected latitude to reflect the higher incidence of melanoma in northern states which was most likely due to sun exposure.
Immunosuppression, sunbed use and phototherapy
These risk factors were not included given the small number of studies available from which to draw conclusions and the limited population for whom they are relevant.