Melanoma detection device MelaFind raises worries among dermatologists

(CBS News) The skin imaging system MelaFind - hailed a high-tech breakthrough in treating the deadly skin cancer melanoma - is now the subject of disagreement among dermatologists over how the machine should be used.

Read The New York Times' report

MelaFind, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, was the subject of a "CBS This Morning" report in February. Watch it now below.

Dr. Elizabeth Hale, a skin cancer surgeon and associate professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, explained on "CBS This Morning" that at issue with the MelaFind technology is the potential to miss melanoma, among other things. She said, "MelaFind is definitely a great leap forward as far as technology goes, and it does show a very impressive sensitivity in diagnosing melanoma. The problem is ... it's only as good as the clinical experience of your dermatologist because, unless the dermatologist recognizes a mole is concerning, if they don't choose to use a MelaFind on that mole, they may potentially miss something.

"Furthermore, I worry a little bit about giving a false sense of security to a patient," she continued. "If you come in with a changing mole, if, at that point in time, MelaFind may say, 'This is not melanoma, this does not need a biopsy,' people need to recognize that their moles can change, so the mole may be pre-malignant at that time and may turn into melanoma, so it's really important that patients follow up regardless of the results of the MelaFind."

Melanoma is a highly treatable cancer if detected early, but once it spreads it's one of the worst cancers out there, Hale said. "There's really a role for early detection, patient education and getting people to come in and get checked," she added.

In her own practice, Hale said she does not use MelaFind, though she has been trained on the machine's use. She said, "I do mole checks several times every day in my practice. But at some point I might [use MelaFind] because the technology is impressive."

For more on the device, watch Hale's full analysis above.

  • Amanda Cochran

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