Designed to gently remove skin cells without the need for a painful biopsy, DermTech Smart Stickers are bringing skin cancer detection into the 21st century. Potentially revolutionizing the way we test for skin cancers, this sticker not only removes the need for invasive biopsies, but also is able to detect melanoma earlier.
Traditional skin cancer detection is subjective; you notice a mole might be mishapen or a doctor finds a sunspot with an irregular border. After an area of concern is identified, you’ll likely need a biopsy, where a piece of the potentially cancerous looking skin is removed and studied. Usually, a scar is left behind.
DermTech Smart Stickers are simply pressed on to whatever skin looks suspicious and then peeled off. The skin cells are then tested for gene markers associated with melanoma, meaning that it’s looking at the skin on the DNA and RNA levels, which is why it’s able to catch cancers earlier. It takes as little as a week to receive results.
Should We Biopsy Less?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma rates have been on the rise since the 70s and have continued to be a pressing problem since. But the argument from The New England Journal of Medicine is that part of those high rates are likely a side-effect of increased screenings flagging areas for biopsy that don’t or won’t develop into cancer.
Biopsies are also expensive and requiring more and more of them may end up putting patients off those critical screenings.
Martin Weinstock, a professor of epidemiology and dermatology at Brown University explains that screenings are all about reducing deaths. “If the price of reducing deaths from melanoma is too many biopsies and misleading diagnoses, that’s a price that’s worth paying.”
Smart Stickers are in a unique position to potentially satisfy both parties. The painless, easy early-detection system could help drive down the high cost on patients and help doctors determine when a biopsy is really needed. Reducing the number of unneeded biopsies doesn’t just keep you from unneeded cutting and scarring, but also helps us have a better understanding of exactly how common melanoma really is.