Westmead Hospital home to world-first advance in early melanoma detection

Westmead Hospital dermatology department head Professor Pablo Fernández-Peñas.

Potentially deadly skin cancers will be detected and treated faster thanks to a world-first 3D imaging system now available in the Westmead Health Precinct.

Westmead Hospital is home to one of 15 of the state-of-the-art machines in Australia, which undertakes full body mapping in 3D – allowing researchers to investigate and track moles and skin spots over time.

The new 3D scanner could be a “game changer” for early skin cancer diagnosis and intervention, according to Westmead Hospital dermatology department head Professor Pablo Fernández-Peñas.

“We will have, in just one photo, the whole body scan. So we will be able to get a baseline photo of every patient, and then we can follow these people along the years and see if any lesion changes or grows and looks like it’s going to grow into a melanoma,” Professor Fernández-Peñas said.

“Then as soon as it starts to change we can remove it.”

Australia has the world’s highest rates of melanoma – a serious form of skin cancer that kills 1,300 Australians every year.

It is the most common cancer affecting 15-39 year olds and is highly treatable if detected early.

Professor Fernández-Peñas said the technology will be more comprehensive than the current method of documenting every spot with a handheld camera.

The Westmead Hospital dermatology team. Note: this image was taken before masks were required in hospital.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) is now searching for an initial 15,000 people to take part in the Australian Centre of Excellence in Melanoma Imaging and Diagnosis (ACEMID) initiative.

The scans will be part of a database that will help develop an algorithm so cancer be detected sooner using artificial intelligence.

Professor Fernández-Peñas encouraged people in western Sydney to register their interest now – and get vaccinated for COVID-19.

“We are ready to go as soon as everybody gets vaccinated,” he said.

ACRF ACEMID brings together three leading Australian universities in skin research: The University of Queensland, The University of Sydney, and Monash University in Victoria.

Together, they are creating a 3D total body skin imaging network, which will form an interconnected centre of excellence in diagnostic imaging of early melanoma.

Learn more and register your interest now at www.acrf.com.au.

For more information about Westmead Hospital’s Dermatology Comprehensive Clinical Centre, click here.

The Westmead Health Precinct is one of the largest health, education, research, innovation and training precincts in Australia, featuring four major hospitals, four world-leading medical research institutes, two university campuses and the largest research intensive pathology service in NSW.