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Device could detect melanoma without cutting skin
November 19th, 2010
09:38 AM ET

Device could detect melanoma without cutting skin

Doctors may have a new tool for diagnosing the deadly skin cancer melanoma with cutting the skin,  after a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Thursday recommended approval of the device.

The machine, called MelaFind, is intended to examine lesions that doctors think have one or more characteristics of melanoma. Today, most lesions that look cancerous are biopsied. Many of those lesions turn out to be non-malignant. With a MelaFind, a dermatologist can scan the lesions, relying on the machine to identify early melanoma.

If the machine does detect cancer, the doctor can proceed with a biopsy, but if the machine finds the lesion to be noncancerous, the patient does not have to go through unnecessary surgery to the skin.

The manufacturer of the device conducted the largest prospective study ever in melanoma detection to show that MelaFind has higher accuracy identifying early melanomas than the highest rate of doctors ever recorded in the clinical literature. They also wanted to confirm that the extremely high accuracy wouldn't come at the cost of more unnecessary biopsies for patients, so MelaFind had to be better at ruling out melanoma that the doctors who participated in the study.

Melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, has an extremely high fatality rate when it's caught in its latest stages. According to the American Cancer Society, one American dies each hour from melanoma and the number of cases is growing fastest among young women. So early detection is key.

“We are extremely pleased with the results of the panel vote and look forward to working with the FDA during its ongoing review of the MelaFind PMA application,” said Joseph V. Gulfo, M.D., president and CEO of MELA Sciences. “Melanoma is virtually 100 percent curable if detected at its earliest stage."

Although this is only a recommendation from the committee to the FDA, traditionally, the government agency follows those recommendations.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.