A simple blood test could soon become the latest monitoring tool for the early detection of melanoma in the eye.
Although moles, or naevi, in the eye are common, the presence of eye melanoma is perhaps not as well known among the public.
University of Queensland scientists have discovered markers in the blood that can differentiate between a benign mole and a melanoma, while also identifying if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
UQ Diamantina Institute's Mitchell Stark said the blood test could monitor very early signs of the disease.
"This blood test was able to detect the difference between a benign mole located at the back of the eye and a melanoma in the eye," Dr Stark said.
"The test also has the potential to show if the melanoma has metastasised and spread to other areas of the body."
Naevi can be difficult to monitor because changes to their shape or colouring can't always be seen as easily as on the skin.
"Outcomes are poor for people with melanoma in their eye if their cancer spreads to the liver," Dr Stark said.
The study is a progression of research conducted by Dr Stark at QIMR Berghofer, where the panel of biomarkers was first developed and used to detect melanoma on the skin.
Dr Stark said the blood test had the potential to be used as a monitoring tool in conjunction with optometrists, GPs, and specialists.
"If someone went to their optometrist for a regular check-up and a mole was found, you could have this blood test at each routine visit to help monitor mole changes," he said.
"If the biomarker in the blood had increased, it might be an early warning sign of melanoma.
"Knowing this patient was high-risk means they could be monitored more closely for the potential spread of cancer and be progressed more rapidly through the healthcare system."