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How does dermoscopy detect skin cancer?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology

A dermatoscope is a handheld device that uses polarized light to magnify an area ten times. The features of a brown spot become more prominent and the pattern of pigment can be seen clearly (lesions may look gray, blue, red, or black under the dermatoscope). Most important, dermoscopy helps evaluate the depth of pigment. Most lesions that might be (or become) melanomas are almost always surgically removed for biopsy. But this strategy can prove problematic if there are multiple atypical lesions. The decision to biopsy all of them to see if they are indeed malignant could be disfiguring. At the same time, a doctor doesn't want to overlook something that could turn out to be malignant. Dermatologists have struggled with this dilemma for many years, and new technologies such as dermoscopy allow us to better evaluate a lesion while it's still in the body. Sometimes a lesion may appear atypical at first; then dermoscopy reveals it to be a simple angioma, a benign growth made up of blood vessels. This can prevent doing a biopsy. In other situations dermoscopy can give a doctor more confidence that a biopsy is absolutely necessary.

Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.