Health round-up: e-melanoma checks, suicide prevention texts and bleach danger

Richard Laycock 14 September 2017 NEWS


A weekly round-up of Australia's latest healthcare news.

Mobile skin cancer detector

Skin cancer researchers from Queensland University of Technology are looking for Aussies to participate in a new kind of skin study.

The study would allow participants to perform self-examinations with the aid of new imaging technology called “mobile dermatoscopes”. It is hoped that the new technology could be beneficial for early detection of the disease.

“This research is testing the use of mobile teledermoscopy which combines a skin microscope with a bright light source attached to a smartphone so that a person at home can send a photograph of a magnified image of a suspicious lesion to a dermatologist,” said QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation Professor Monika Janda.

It is estimated that almost 14,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2017, with melanoma making up 10.4% of all cancer cases this year.

“Melanoma is often cured when it is detected before it embeds itself deeper into the body.

“That is why early detection by regular checking of skin lesions or changes can improve survival of melanoma," Professor Janda said.

It is expected that 1,839 people will die from melanoma in 2017. It is hoped that this innovation will help see this number reduced in the coming years.

Texts of hope to save lives

A new suicide prevention program is set to be rolled out this month, which will send out an SMS message of support to patients after they are discharged from hospital.

“Every day about six Australians die by suicide and a further 175 attempt suicide – in NSW, two people on average each day lose their life to suicide,” minister for mental health, Tanya Davies, said.

The trial will commence at Sydney's Westmead Hospital, followed by Blacktown and Napean Hospitals.

“At Westmead’s emergency department we see six to eight people each day following suicide attempts or a self-harm episode. This trial will see some of these people receive SMS messages every one to two months for one year, following their discharge from hospital,” said senior staff specialist in psychiatry at Westmead Hospital, Dr Manish Anand.

The trial was launched to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day and comes in the same week as the mental health initiative RU OK Day.

Cleaning the house could be bad for your health

A study has found that using certain types of bleach could increase your chances of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The research, conducted by French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and Harvard University, discovered that using these products just once a week could increase your chances of developing COPD by up to 32%.

The study looked at a group of over 55,000 women who were working as nurses between 1989 and 2009, whom had no history of COPD. The researchers then followed them until May 2017, during which time 663 developed COPD.

The researchers found that those nurses who had higher exposure levels to disinfectants had a higher risk of developing COPD.

What else is happening?

A lack of access to health services could be making rural Australians sick, an issue the chair of the National Rural Health Alliance, Tanya Lehmann, addressed at Parliamentary Friends of Rural and Remote Health.

"We know that poorer access to services contributes to poorer health outcomes for rural and remote Australians. As country people we are, are on average, older, sicker and poorer than our city cousins. In a land as wealthy as ours, that is just not good enough. We have to do better," Lehmann said.

Each week our round-up offers a summary of the latest developments impacting Australian healthcare and most importantly, you, the consumer. Check in every Thursday to find out what's happening in health.

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