Fighting skin cancers with computers and technology

NEW YORK, June 1999 - Memorial Sloan-Kettering's new Laurance S. Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion will house the country's first fully computerized photography system to follow patients at risk for melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Each year, individuals with irregularly shaped moles called "dysplastic nevi" are at risk of becoming one of the 42,000 people who will be diagnosed with melanoma. Although these pigmented lesions cannot all be removed as a preventive measure because they can be so numerous, they must be closely monitored.

Allan Halpern, M.D., Chief of the Dermatology Service at Memorial Sloan- Kettering, has established a Digital Imaging Screening program that uses computerized photography for follow-up screening of patients with a large number of dysplastic moles. A digital photographic record of each of the patient's moles is created and stored. When the patient returns for subsequent appointments, any suspected change to a mole can be verified by an immediate comparison to the computerized photographic record. The baseline image can be retrieved and the mole in question observed in close-up view. This takes away any guesswork in identifying the mole or verifying any alteration. If there is in fact a change and the mole has become malignant, the dermatologist is able to make the diagnosis at the earliest possible time.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering's new outpatient pavilion will also provide a full range of dermatology services including Mohs' surgery, a leading-edge micrographic treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers that are associated with high-risk local recurrence. These non-melanoma skin cancers, including basal- cell carcinoma and squamous-cell carcinoma, often occur on the face, where incomplete removal of these skin cancers can lead to regrowth and significant disfigurement, and can become serious medical problems.

Kishwer Nehal, M.D., Director of the Mohs' Surgery Program a

Contact: Avice Meehan or Christine Westerman
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

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