MelaFind: The Cancer Scanner

FRESNO, Calif.

Soaking up some rays can be fun, or fatal.

Doctor Mark Nestor says catching skin cancer early is key.

"When it's caught early, it's virtually 100% curable; when it's caught late, it will kill you," Mark S. Nestor, M.D., Ph.D., Voluntary Associate Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University Of Miami Leonard Miller School Of Medicine tells Ivanhoe.

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 wanna do primarily is never miss anything," says Dr. Nestor.

But now a new FDA approved tool is giving doctors the upper hand.

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

MelaFind uses a scanner that emits ten 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," says Dr. Nestor.

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

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

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


BACKGROUND: Skin cancer is extremely common and will typically appear on areas of the skin exposed to sun, although skin cancer can also develop in areas that hardly or never are touched by sunlight. Skin cancer has three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma; there are also a few uncommon types of skin cancer such as Kaposi sarcoma. (Source: Each year there are about 2 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma found in the United States. Melanoma is the most serious out of the three, but is also less common with an estimated 75,000 cases of melanoma in 2012. (Source:

RISK FACTORS: Certain factors place people at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. These risk factors include:

Fair skin and hair -- People with light colored skin and blond or red hair may have less pigment in their skin, meaning less protection from ultraviolet rays.

Excessive sun exposure -- Spending a lot of time in the sun without sunscreen or other protection can increase your risk of skin cancer; tanning beds can also increase this risk.

Family history of skin cancer -- Sometimes your genes can play a role in your risk of skin cancer, so if immediate family members had skin cancer it may mean you have a higher risk as well.

Moles -- Large or abnormal moles are more likely than others to become cancerous, so if you naturally have a lot of them this could increase your risk of skin cancer. (Source:

PREVENT SKIN CANCER: The best ways to prevent skin cancer are to protect your skin when going outside in the sun. Using sunscreen, hats, or covering up when you know you will be in the sun for long periods of time is important for avoiding skin cancer. People should also avoid using tanning beds since the UV rays increase the risk of skin cancer, especially if they are fair skinned. Finally, regularly check your skin for abnormal skin lesions or moles and go to your doctor if there are any concerns.

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