Melanoma is one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer and was responsible for 8,441 deaths in the United States in 2006. Diagnosis of melanoma involves many invasive and expensive biopsies on benign lesions. Dr. Randy Moss, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and some of his colleagues, including Dr. William V. Stoecker, a local dermatologist, have been working on a diagnostic tool for past 30 years. The system, named as dermascope, relies on taking close-up photos of suspected lesions using a specialty built device.
Researchers from Missouri S&T have received a patent for “Automatic Detection of Critical Dermoscopy Features for Malignant Melanoma Diagnosis.”
- a magnifier,
- a light source and
- a transparent plate
The dermatoscope is simple to use:
- The scope is placed on skin coated with mineral oil, alcohol or a clear gel.
- The instrument illuminates the skin at a low angle in all directions,
- This makes the skin’s upper layers more transparent, thus making deeper pigment patterns and structures visible.
- Photo of suspected lesion are taken
These are then processed on a computer that grades the presence of various image characteristics and comes up with a total score that suggests potential melanoma.
style="text-align: justify;">How do the results of dermascope look like?
The initial results of the dermascope look very promising.
“In one study, our method achieved a diagnostic accuracy rate of more than 94 percent on a set of 724 lesion images,” says Moss. “Without the use of technology, only 82-87 percent of lesions are correctly diagnosed.”
The researchers are working in developing software to make the process available to the medical community.
Dermascope presents a great potential in diagnosis of melanoma, simply by analysis of images of the skin. Hopefully, researchers are able to advance it to the level where it can be used as common diagnostic tool for melanoma patients.