Skin cancer detection made easier

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On November 14, 2010

Detection of malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will soon be quicker and easier thanks to a group of S&T researchers led by Randy Moss, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Skin cancer research

(Photo by B.A. Rupert)

Moss recently received a patent for a computer-aided process to analyze photographs of skin lesions to detect the cancer. The process would eliminate the need for many invasive and expensive biopsies performed on benign lesions.

The researchers use photographs taken with a device called a dermatoscope. The scope contains a magnifier, a light source and a transparent plate. When placed on skin coated with mineral oil, alcohol or a clear gel, the instrument illuminates the skin at a low angle in all directions, which makes the skin’s upper layers more transparent, and makes deeper pigment patterns and structures visible.

“In one study, our method achieved a diagnostic accuracy rate of more than 94 percent on a set of 724 lesion images,” says Moss. “Without the use of technology, only 82-87 percent of lesions are correctly diagnosed.”

Also named in the patent are local dermatologist Dr. William V. Stoecker; R. Joe Stanley, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Bijaya Shrestha, associate teaching professor in electrical and computer engineering and in mining and nuclear engineering; and Xiaohe Chen, EE’07, Kapil Gupta, EE’04, and Pavani Jella, EE’04.

The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health. A medical devices company is developing software to make the process available to the medical community

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On November 14, 2010. Posted in Research, Winter 2010