Cutting edge technology emerges for skin cancer diagnosis

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skin cancer cellby Jacki Donaldson, The Cancer Blog

In the not-too-distant future, dermatologists will be able to diagnose skin cancer without ever cutting the skin.

Right now, doctors cut out all suspicious lesions in order to examine them, to determine if they are cancerous or not. But with the development of a new microscope, cells can be examined right on the body -- without cutting.

Moles matter, reported Matt Lauer on Thursday's TODAY show during an interview with a skin cancer expert. Moles are highly associated with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. So it is critical that each mole is investigated. With this new high resolution technology -- essentially a video biopsy -- a camera will allow doctors to view cells, zero in on the area of concern, and pinpoint the exact cells that make up a mole. If the cells are similar in shape and size and have equal distribution, the mole is normal. If the individual cells are irregular and have no uniform pattern, the mole is abnormal and probably cancerous.

While cutting for biopsy purposes will one day be a thing of the past, cutting will still be necessary if a mole is characterized by cancerous cells. If it's cancer, it must come out. But the video biopsy can be used to map the border and boundaries and will allow for precise removal of the mole.

This technology is still developing -- but one day, perhaps eight to 10 years from now -- doctors will be able to more consistently detect cancer without removal of skin. For now, they must take a piece of the mole and put it under a microscope.

There are definite warning signs of skin cancer. Any mole that is asymmetrical with irregular borders and varied, dark colors should be reported to a physician. Also, any mole that changes in color, shape, or size and is bigger than a pencil eraser is cause for concern.

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