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Is a Dermatoscope Necessary When Diagnosing Melanoma?

Dermatoscope, a small examination tool that magnifies the appearance of skin lesions, can increase diagnostic accuracy of melanoma, according to Cochrane, a London-based healthcare research organization.

The dermatoscope can “make the topmost layer of skin translucent to give a clearer view of structures underneath,” said Jason Lee, MD, professor and vice chair of dermatology and cutaneous biology at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. It can zone in on patterns, shapes, colors, and structures to better identify problematic skin issues.

Cochrane evaluated over 100 studies that featured dermatoscopes to help diagnose melanoma. In the studies analyzed, of a total 40,000 skin lesions were evaluated and 5,700 of those were melanoma. The researchers also noted that experienced dermatologists identified the true cases. A 2008 study published in JAMA Dermatology found that in a theoretical group of 1,000 skin lesions, 120 were diagnosed as melanoma. Of those cases, 19 wouldn’t have been have been missed had they not been examined by a dermatoscope.

The use of dermatoscopes is growing increasingly popular, and a 2010 survey from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 48 percent of dermatologists in the United States use the tool on their patients. In 2014, that figure rose to 80 percent.

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