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First-of-Its-Kind 3-D Imaging in West Harrison Improves Early Detection of Melanoma

Memorial Sloan Kettering dermatologists Allan Halpern (left) and Michael Marchetti review images assembled into a 3-D digital model of a patient.

The creation of three-dimensional avatars is not just a feature of the latest movie blockbuster. It’s happening now at Memorial Sloan Kettering—and it’s changing the way doctors are monitoring people at increased risk of melanoma, a serious skin cancer that is curable when found early.

Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) is the only institution in the country offering 3-D total-body photography to patients at high risk for the disease—and it’s available at several of its outpatient locations, including its facility in West Harrison.

Developed under the leadership of Allan Halpern, MD, Chief of MSK’s Dermatology Service, and Canfield Scientific, the system creates a 3-D record of the entire surface of a person’s skin, allowing dermatologists to track any changes in the appearance of moles or lesions that could indicate early stages of melanoma.  

“Detecting a change in a lesion is the most sensitive way to pick up cancers early,” says Dr. Halpern.

Here’s how the 3-D approach works: A patient stands in the middle of an array of 46 digital cameras mounted on scaffolding, and the cameras all take photos simultaneously. Within a few minutes, a computer uses specialized software to process and assemble the images into a 3-D avatar—a digital model of the patient—showing all of his or her lesions.

During the same visit, suspicious moles or lesions are photographed with two-dimensional close-ups or dermoscopy, a noninvasive method that uses a special magnifying lens and a light source to see features below the skin’s surface. These images are tagged so they can be linked to their corresponding location on the 3-D avatar for analysis and monitoring by the dermatologist.

All of this assembled information serves as a baseline to which dermatologists can refer later when examining the patient. This system helps doctors avoid unnecessary biopsies (procedures that remove tissue for examination) by providing a more accurate depiction of a person’s lesions to determine whether they have actually changed over time. “We can turn an image and zoom in. This is very helpful for closely examining the size and shape of the lesions,” explains Michael Marchetti, MD, a dermatologist at MSK.

Patients undergoing 3-D photography will soon get a flash drive of their images (encrypted for privacy) that they can view on their computers for comparison when they’re doing self-checks at home. The images can also be shared with a patient’s primary dermatologist or other physician.

People at increased risk for melanoma are candidates for screening with 3-D photography. This includes individuals who: 

· have previously been diagnosed with the disease;

· have many moles, including atypical or dysplastic moles, and/or large moles present since birth or early life;

· have a family history of melanoma in multiple blood relatives.

For more information, visit www.mskcc.org/morescience.

Memorial Sloan Kettering
500 Westchester Ave
West Harrison
(914) 367-7000


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