The Skin-ny on Melanoma Detection

Tech Talk bannerWith summer quickly approaching (though if you’re Floridians like us you’re familiar with our seemingly endless summer), the concern of Melanoma is constant. For anyone who has ever had a loved one who has even been affected by cancer, you know there are an amalgam of questions and concerns that flood your thoughts which usually only lead to more questions. Some cancer cannot be detected until later stages. Luckily, the American Cancer Society says Melanoma can be. However, you may find yourself struck with paranoia as any dark spot, mole, rash, discoloration, etc. you find on your skin could be alarming and send you into a spiral of worry and doom. In the past anyone potentially high risk for Melanoma most assuredly had a biopsy in their future but perhaps not anymore.

Highlighted in a 2013 article from ASME (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) was a product called MelaFind. An alternative to cutting back on Melanoma Biopsies. The product has since grown in to what Hull Dermatology & Aesthetics is calling a “Clinically-Proven Technology for Melanoma Detection”. MelaFind claims it has the potential to be mentally relieving as well as a productive device in preventative medicine.

MelaFind handheld device. Image courtesy of

MelaFind handheld device. Image courtesy of

So what is MelaFind? It is a 2013 FDA approved handheld device that uses optical imaging and analysis in tandem with computer monitor readout and software to detect Melanoma on the skin. That means a potentially very large number of people who may have had to go through a surgical procedure just to find out whether or not they have cancer may not actually have to. It could reduce the cost of the procedure to patients, cut back stressful wait times to get the results, and limit unnecessary scarring. Simply scan an area of the skin and MelaFind can tell you if an area of concern has potential Melanoma! Amazing and awesome, right?…Maybe.

An article published in The New York Times discussed some of the arguments against using this new device. Before MelaFind was developed, dermatologists today primarily rely on a pair of eyes and a tool called a dermatoscope to detect potentially cancerous skin lesions. With the increase in available medical technology several kinds of accessories have been made to be paired with the dermatoscope to assist physicians in diagnosis. The dermatology community is wary of this new MelaFind device because they feel that it has to potential to blindly lead doctors into false diagnosis, giving all too often false positive read outs which would result in the opposite of less patients having biopsies ordered.

Much like a GPS system blindly guiding a driver into a brick wall or river, “We are better off when the system supports doctors who are thorough and unhurried; who examine and listen carefully and who empower patience to practice good surveillance and sun protection,” stated Dr. Roberta Lucas of clinical dermatology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. She goes on to say “This technology should still be considered to be in the developmental stage.” And perhaps this is a heady reminder that just because the FDA approves something does not mean it’s good for you.

While MelaFind shows great ingenuity and steps forward in the world of dermatology it is not in any way perfect and should be questioned, like all explorations into health and science.

Overall a good take away is to never blindly believe there is any cure-all or perfect device. A lot like losing weight, there is no one trick or magical pill to take. It’s about educating yourself and first practicing good care of your skin and body and then seeking not one but multiple opinions from healthcare providers to form a customized plan for your own personal health care.

Be Aware for your own Health Care!


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