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MelaFind helps detect skin cancer early

January 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Skin cancer accounts for 80 percent of all new cancers in the U.S. It's preventable and, if caught early, it's curable. Doctors now have a new way to find it.

Dr. Mark Nestor, a voluntary associate professor for the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami's Leonard Miller School of Medicine, says catching skin cancer early is key.

"When it's caught early, it's virtually 100 percent curable. When it's caught late, it will kill you," said Nestor.

Detecting melanoma can be tricky. While some cancerous moles can be easy to spot, many others that are just starting to become dangerous are not.

"What we want to do primarily is never miss anything," said Nestor.

MelaFind, a new Food and Drug Administration-approved tool, is giving doctors the upper hand.

"The idea here is to have the tools necessary to be able to tell whether or not we should biopsy a legion," said Nestor.

MelaFind uses a scanner that emits 10 unique wavelengths of light to analyze the various aspects of the mole. In just a minute, it displays a 3-D image of the mole and rates its disorganization as high or low.

"This is the first type of computerized diagnostic aid in this realm that has ever been approved by the FDA," said Nestor.

In studies, MelaFind was 98 percent accurate in predicting melanoma and reduced unnecessary biopsies by 90 percent.

"We are determining visually in a much better way," Nestor said.

MelaFind is being used in a few hundred sites across the country. Each session costs $150 to $200, and it's not covered by insurance.


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