With May designated as Skin Cancer Awareness Month by the American Academy of Dermatology, TechTimes is taking a closer look at this disease all week as we talk to Richard Bezozo, M.D. and president of MoleSafe, an advanced melanoma screening and surveillance program that combines total-body photography, digital dermoscopy and digital serial monitoring.

MoleSafe has partnered with the Melanoma Research Foundation, and will donate a portion of its proceeds for every screening conducted during the month of May. For information about MoleSafe and early detection programs, visit its site.

Before jumping into Part II of our interview (Part I ran yesterday), here are a few more skin cancer facts and figures to mull over, courtesy of The Skin Cancer Foundation.

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over 2 million people are diagnosed annually.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
  • Treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancers increased by nearly 77 percent between 1992 and 2006.

In keeping with the May is Melanoma Month theme, we asked Dr. Bezozo a few questions about this potentially deadly, but often ignored, form of cancer and how his MoleSafe services are helping to fight it.

Tech Times: Can you please describe the main components of MoleSafe's program (total-body photography, digital dermoscopy and digital serial monitoring)?

Dr. Bezozo: The unique part about MoleSafe is that it's comprehensive and all-inclusive. All of the tools and technology combined together is what makes MoleSafe the most advanced program available to patients. It connects the most advanced technology tools with a panel of highly trained dermatologists and dermoscopists and the practice of dermatology to detect melanoma at the earliest possible stages, and it significantly reduces the number of unnecessary biopsies.

The MoleSafe procedure represents a new standard of care and is part of a lifelong program for the early detection of melanoma. Its key elements include:

  • Risk Assessment: Using its database, MoleSafe has developed a risk assessment model that can help identify patients who may be at higher risk of melanoma
  • Total-Body Photography: Roughly 50 percent of all melanomas first appear on unmarked skin. The use of total-body photography creates a baseline of the patient's skin and therefore helps the MoleSafe specialists to identify both new and changing lesions that might indicate melanoma skin cancer.
  • Serial Digital Dermoscopy: The universal truth about melanoma is change. Serial monitoring of moles is therefore a useful tool for helping identify melanomas that could potentially be overlooked during a routine point-in-time skin examination. Individual moles are imaged using dermoscopy, a technique that combines high magnification and high light intensity, allowing doctors to see below the skin surface, providing them with more information than the naked eye to determine if skin lesions are benign or malignant. Moles are tagged to their location on the body for subsequent diagnosis, identification and comparison over time.
  • Diagnosis and Management: The patient's complete skin record, including digital images and clinical information, is sent via a secure tele-dermatology network to MoleSafe's panel of world-class melanoma dermatologists (dermoscopists) for analysis and reporting. Patients and their designated doctors receive their reports and their digital melanogram.
  • Education and Follow-up: The melanographer, a trained nurse, educates patients about the risks of sun exposure, and helps generate a continuing partnership between MoleSafe, the patient, and his/her doctor.

TechTimes: How has the advancement of technology helped the practice of dermatology to evolve and improve?

Dr. Bezozo: Technology has enabled us to detect melanoma at its earliest stage, drastically increasing survival rates. We've taken all of the current best practices based upon digital photography and digital dermoscopy to provide dermatologists with the most advanced and comprehensive melanoma detection and surveillance system available worldwide. 

The compressive suite of technology products that MoleSafe utilizes has helped to reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies by nearly 80% compared to traditional naked eye exams. Early detection is critical when it comes to melanoma since it can significantly impact the survival rate. The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early before the tumor has penetrated the skin is about 99%. The survival rate falls to 15% for those with advanced disease.

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