"Nothing is better than a board-certified dermatologist evaluating your skin," says Laura Korb Ferris, "but this study indicates that a computer program ... could be a valuable tool for physicians when deciding what to do with a suspicious mark on the skin."(Credit: iStockphoto)

cancer

Now doctors can use phones to spot melanoma

A software program that can run on a tablet or a smartphone should make it easier for doctors to detect melanoma and determine if a biopsy is needed. The software compares a spot on a patient’s skin to images of both benign and malignant lesions.

“We know it’s important to detect melanoma early, and we wanted to design a tool that would make it easier for a physician to decide the severity of a lesion based on what we’ve learned from the many cases we’ve already seen,” says Laura Korb Ferris, director of clinical trials and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh.

The new program was designed to classify lesions as malignant or benign based on 54 computed features for lesions. To evaluate the program, researchers calculated severity scores for 173 dermoscopic images of skin lesions that had already been diagnosed. Of the total, 39 were melanomas, 14 were non-melanoma skin cancers, and 120 were benign lesions. Separately, the images also were evaluated by 30 dermatologists.

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The findings are published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The program detected melanoma correctly in 97 percent of the cases, and specificity was 44 percent. In comparison to the evaluation by clinicians, the detection of melanoma by this tool was slightly higher. The specificity of this tool, or ability to correctly identify a harmless lesion as benign, was just slightly lower than that of the clinicians.

“Nothing is better than a board-certified dermatologist evaluating your skin,” Ferris says, “but this study indicates that a computer program that can be run on a simple device such as a tablet or smartphone could be a valuable tool for physicians when deciding what to do with a suspicious mark on the skin.”

Other researchers from University of Pittsburgh and from Carnegie Mellon University are coauthors of the study.

Source: University of Pittsburgh

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