DermTech: The Revolutionary New Non-Invasive Test for Melanoma Detection

A ground-breaking new test for melanoma is changing how the disease is detected. The DermaTech PLAplus is a revolutionary non-invasive genomic test that is transforming melanoma detection. Village Dermatology is excited to offer this new technology to our patients in Birmingham and the surrounding areas. Continue reading to learn more about this platform that is changing how melanoma is found.

Melanoma and its detection

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Melanoma, a cancer of the pigment cells in the skin, is not very common but can be dangerous if not caught and treated early. Each year, more than 100,000 new melanomas are diagnosed in the United States. Even though melanoma accounts for less than 5% of all skin cancers, it is responsible for around 75% of deaths from skin cancer.

Some people are at higher risk of melanoma, but anyone can get it. Early detection is key because when found early, melanoma is more likely to be curable.

Until recently, if a person or their dermatologist found a suspicious mole on examination, the only way to find out whether it is melanoma was with a skin biopsy. The doctor would remove the suspicious area with a surgical blade and send it to the laboratory for examination under a microscope. Now, DermTech has heralded a new era in skin cancer detection with a non-invasive genomic test.

DermTech: A revolutionary “no-cut” melanoma test

As noted, traditionally, doctors need to cut the skin with a scalpel to detect melanoma. Now, there’s an easier and more accurate way to do it. The DermTech PLAplus (pigmented lesion assay) is a smart sticker that can be pressed onto a suspicious mole and painlessly lifted off. The adhesive lifts skin cells off the surface of the lesion, carrying genetic material with it. The sticker is placed on a collection strip and sent off to a state-of-the-art laboratory in La Jolla, CA, for genomic analysis.

For many people who are at high risk for melanoma (due to family history or extensive sun exposure, for example), DermTech is a life-changing technology. In such individuals, conventional methods of melanoma detection with skin biopsies can involve a lot of cutting and scars. Any mole that looks remotely suspicious needs to be biopsied. But now, there’s a way to avoid the scalpel with the DermTech melanoma test.

DermTech melanoma test: A faster, easier, painless procedure

When a skin biopsy is performed, the doctor first cleans the area and then injects a local anesthetic to numb the skin. The tissue is then extracted with the correct type of skin biopsy. You receive post-operative care instructions to take care of the biopsied area at home. The biopsy site can take up to 3 weeks to heal.

The DermTech melanoma test is quick and easy. The smart sticker painlessly lifts your skin cells with an adhesive. There is no anesthesia, no cuts, and no scars. You can even do the test at home under a physician’s supervision during a telemedicine consultation. The test results typically take 3-5 business days. Your dermatologist can then choose the best treatment pathway for you. If the test detects melanoma, your doctor will likely recommend the removal of the mole. If the test is negative, however, you’ve avoided a biopsy and a scar.

The Science Behind DermTech

After a conventional skin biopsy of a suspicious mole, your tissue is sent off to a dermatopathologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases of the skin). They look at the excised skin tissue under a microscope to see if it has any of the characteristic morphological (structural) features of melanoma cancer cells. A correct diagnosis depends on the evaluating pathologist’s expertise, among other things.

Dermtech’s proprietary technology is based on genomic markers. The sticker extracts about 1.5 mg of tissue from the top layers of the skin. This skin tissue contains RNA and DNA (genetic material). The sample is sent off to the DermTech lab, where it is tested for genomic markers of melanoma (DNA sequences that are specific for the disease). In other words, the tissue is tested for an elevated expression of two specific genes that have a proven correlation with melanoma.

This type of genomic analysis can detect cancer cells long before they are visible under a microscope. A DermTech melanoma test, therefore, looks at skin cells 10,000 times more closely than a skin biopsy.

DermTech Melanoma Test Accuracy

Surgical skin biopsies are the standard method of detecting melanoma. Around 3 million of these procedures are performed each year in the United States. However, skin biopsies are not 100% accurate. Depending on the type of biopsy performed, the accuracy of the test can range from 95% for excisional biopsies to around 45% for punch biopsies and superficial shave biopsies. This means that many times detection of early-stage melanoma is missed altogether.

The DermTech smart sticker is extremely accurate. It has a 99% negative predictive value, meaning if the test is negative, there’s a 99% probability you don’t have the disease.

DermTech: Advanced technology meets easy process

If you have a suspicious mole, you don’t have to undergo a skin biopsy. Inquire about a new way of testing for skin cancer here at Village Dermatology with DermTech, the advanced melanoma test that has made skin surveillance easier than ever before.

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Melanoma Detection