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New Devices and Methods for Detecting Skin Cancer

Posted: November 14, 2008

Based on current estimates, 8,420 people are expected to die from melanoma this year. In an effort to reverse this sobering trend, dermatologists and the scientific community alike are continually developing new diagnostics, refining detection guidelines and providing patients with the tools they need to properly examine their own skin for signs of skin cancer.

Speaking on Nov. 13, 2008, at the American Academy of Dermatology’s Skin academy, dermatologist Ellen S. Marmur, MD, FAAD, chief of the division of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, presented the latest advances in diagnosing skin cancer and the Academy’s new detection strategies that emphasize the importance of patient involvement.

“There are some exciting innovations in diagnosing skin cancer that can help us detect skin cancer early, when it is most treatable,” said Marmur. “Even simple detection tools designed by the Academy that patients can use in their own homes can save thousands of lives.”

New technologies for diagnosing skin cancer

Dermatologists traditionally diagnose skin cancer by evaluating the skin using a clinical examination and, if necessary, a magnifying device and then biopsying any suspicious lesions. Now, technological advances in computers, lasers and other polarizing light sources are providing dermatologists with tools to enhance the evaluation of suspicious lesions and, in some cases, decreasing the number of biopsies needed for an accurate diagnosis. The idea is to hone in on suspicious lesions earlier and with more specificity.

One of the newest technological developments in the fight against skin cancer is the use of sophisticated imaging to scan and enhance certain features of suspected lesions. Similar to how a computerized tomography (CT) scan highlights areas of the brain for abnormalities, imaging devices can now work on the skin to help detect cancerous tissue.