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Holy Moley! New Device May Spot Melanoma

F.D.A.-approved “MelaFind” holds promise for the diagnosis of the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

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At your yearly dermatologist appointment, your derm asks if you’d like a head-to-toe inspection of your moles. And for good reason—doctors typically find melanomas that are thinner and in an earlier stage than what people find during a self-exam.

COLUMN: Prevent Skin Cancer and Look Younger, Longer

Now there’s a new kind of full-body exam, where your dermatologist can spot melanoma before the naked eye can see it. An optical imaging device called MelaFind analyzes skin lesions over the course of one hour. How? By zapping a mole with 10 wavelengths of light to reveal a 3D-look below the skin’s surface.

It registers the pigmented picture and uses complex algorithms to compare it against 10,000 clinical biopsied moles from a database of images. Talk about a thorough exam!

Not only does MelaFind have 98 percent accuracy in predicting melanoma, but it reduces the need to have more invasive biopsies, by up to 90 percent. Patients such as 27-year-old Kelly Norvell have declared that this device helped her win the battle against invasive melanoma.

One last important distinction: It’s by no means a screening device for all skin cancers, but used for snapping clearer images of pigmented skin lesions. We bet the device finds its way to your internist or family practitioner’s office, and maybe even your pediatrician’s office. Prior to this, these docs used subjective assessment to determine whether or not to send a patient to a dermatologist for a melanoma exam. Since it's subjective, missed melanomas do occur.

Because of this, we think this device may become more widely available and less expensive.

MORE: The Truth About Sun Protection And Dark Skin

Your defense against skin cancer starts with SPF every day, not just at the beach or when it’s sunny! If you’re concerned about the chalky mess of sunscreen, try micronized varieties that go on clear.

And when you’re outside for extended hours, sunglasses and hats are a must. Even sun protective clothing is fashionable these days.

QUIZ: How Healthy Is Your Body Skin?

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