Using Technology To Help Detect Melanoma

Fighting cancer is one of the greatest battles we will ever face. It is an awful disease which eventually, will affect us all in some way. One of the deadliest forms of cancer in Melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which kills 7,800 people in the US each year.  Recently, it has been reported that Melanoma is increasing faster than any other type of cancer in the United States.

Tons of resources, money, energy, experts, and technology are dedicated to curing Cancer. This is a battle that will go on – and the brave people who dedicate their lives to this cause should be recognised and held in high regard.  

What seems to get much less attention and recognition are technologies and inventions that can help detect cancer early.  The fact remains that total deaths from cancer continue to decline year over year. A lot of this can be contributed to improvements that have been made in early detection. Medicine today is better than it has ever been, and one thing we know is that if cancer is found early, the chances of beating it are usually significantly improved. It is critical that we continue to invest in technologies, strategies, and ideas to detect cancer as early as possible.

Melanoma is usually detected by a Dermatologist. A dermatologist will see a mole or a lesion on the skin that is suspicious, and over time, he will watch it to see if there is a change. If there is a change, the Dermatologist will remove the piece of skin so that a biopsy can be performed on it. Often, a Dermatologist will remove a mole or piece of skin right away, without waiting for it to change, if he or she feels it is highly suspicious and risky.  Dermatologists also suggest that you watch your moles and skin for changes in shape or colour, and that you see the Dermatologist once you identify a change.  Personally, I think Melanoma detection can greatly benefit from technology.

Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and I am not abreast on what the field has came up with or is currently working on.  However, I have had a lot of experience in dealing with moles having had plenty removed, and I am someone who is constantly thinking about ways technology can better improve our daily lives.
Facebook has invented picture recognition so that in an automated way – it can identify the person who is in a picture.  Other websites and companies reportedly are working hard on similar technology so that things, pictures, images, and other objects can be identified and tagged in an automated way.  Google is also investing heavily in these types of technologies.

If we can invent facial, place, and image recognition, why can’t we invent Melanoma recognition?  Why are we asked to watch our moles closely to see if there is a change – can’t technology do this?

Could we put one million images of real moles into a atabase. And then tell the database which moles were found to be Melanoma and which ones weren’t.  That way, in the future, when others upload images of their moles – the database can tell you how likely it is to be Melanom. Over time, as more moles are submitted, and the results of the respective biopsies are entered into the database – the system would get smarter and be able to more accurately predict which moles are the most at risk.  Of course it is helpful to have a Dermatologist’s eyes on a mole – but wouldn’t it be more helpful to also have technology assist us with identifying potentially harmful moles in a quick and easy way?

With a digital camera – users could easily upload their moles to the database.  And with privacy ensured, I think most of us would be happy to know that in addition to using technology to get a quick opinion on a given mole, that we would also be helping to build a database which one day our kids may benefit from.

As I said, maybe this idea has already been thought of and mapped out by others.  However, I am sure that there are many other untapped ideas and solutions which would help us to be more efficient and successful with our cancer detection.

Technology is amazing, and there are brilliant people who can do amazing things with it.  And improving the ways in which we can detect Melanoma as well as other forms of cancer will save lives.