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New Tool Helping Doctors Better Detect Skin Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Summer fun can take a toll. Too much unprotected sun exposure ups the risk for skin cancer. Finding it early is the key to survival. And now, instead of just using their eyes to look for signs of trouble, doctors have a new tool.

Candace Herrington loved to be tan, laying out, tanning beds — whatever it took. But then she was diagnosed with skin cancer.

“That was sort of the tipping point for me,” Herrington said.

Now, she gets regular skin checks.

Traditionally, dermatologists visually look over the skin. Anything suspicious is removed to be biopsied.

Now, they have a more sophisticated tool called “dermatoscopy.”

Dr. Mary Martini, a dermatologist, explains the procedure.

“It basically has magnifying lenses on it and LCD lights within it,” she said. “We can image the pattern of that mole and how it’s growing and how the cells within it are organized.”

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With the dermatoscope, a normal mole will only have two or three colors, and only one pattern of cells.

More than three colors and a combination of patterns within the same mole is a cancer indicator.

This allows doctors to tell the difference between benign and malignant spots without having to take a piece of tissue.

“Dermatoscopy has improved our accuracy of identifying melanoma in a major way,” Dr. Martini said.

The idea is to remove abnormal skin cells early before they cause damage.

There is no added cost for this type of exam but the exam is usually longer.

Herrington says she’s glad to take the extra time.

“I don’t spend as much time in the sun,” she explained. “I don’t spend summers by the pool very much and I just apply sunscreen as much as I can. I reapply every hour. I wear hats when I’m out in the sun.”

Doctors use dermatoscope to detect all kinds of skin cancer, as well as other kinds of skin and scalp problems.

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