MIAMI (WTVJ/NBC) - Experts estimate one in five people will develop skin cancer, and often doctors need to do a biopsy to determine if a growth is malignant.
Now, dermatologists at the University of Miami are using a scope that, in some cases, can help patients avoid the scalpel.
The VivaScope, a confocal imager, provides pictures and valuable information below the skin's surface.
The dermatologist is able to see tell tale cellular details, even blood vessels, that signal whether something is malignant or benign.
It's painless to the patient, but they must be perfectly still.
University of Miami Dermatologist Dr. James Grichnik says that's a benefit for the patient.
"If it's an area we're questioning and by the confocal it looks fine, we might choose not to do a biopsy, which will prevent an unnecessary biopsy," he said.
Nearly 70,000 new cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed ever year.
Rabinovitz explained that sometimes it's clear for a dermatologist to determine when a mole is actually malignant melanoma, but not always.
In one case, the cancerous growth was in a hair follicle, he said.
"It may be an area that maybe we're not that worried about, but maybe we have a little bit of suspicion," Rabinovitz said. "Where the machine will help us to see if there is an underlying malignancy and help us to do a biopsy on something. Hopefully we'll catch it earlier than we might have otherwise."
Copyright 2011 WTVJ via NBC. All rights reserved.