Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.
A study looking at a possible test to help diagnose melanoma skin cancer
This study looked at a system called a Skin Analyser that takes detailed pictures of the skin to help diagnose melanoma.
If you have a mole that may be a cause for concern, doctors look at things such as the size, shape and colour. They also look at the 3 dimensional (3D) shape, and how smooth or bumpy the surface is. They look for things that are unusual and may suggest melanoma skin cancer.
The Skin Analyser used in this trial uses a camera and LED lights to take a series of pictures of the skin. A computer then combines these pictures to create a 3D ‘bump map’ of the skin.
Researchers used the Skin Analyser to look at areas of abnormal skin, such as moles or skin blemishes, in people with and without suspected melanoma skin cancer.
The aim of this study was to find out if using a 3D image of the skin was better than the standard method to diagnose melanoma skin cancer.
Summary of results
The research team found that the Skin Analyser was more reliable than the standard method of diagnosing melanomas.
When researchers look at how reliable a new test is, they look at 2 things. The first is called sensitivity. This means that if the person has the condition they are looking for, the test will be positive. The second is called specificity. This means that if the person does not have the condition they are looking for, the test will be negative. It is important that a test is both sensitive and specific, so that the diagnosis is right.
The researchers in this trial used the Skin Analyser to look at some skin lesions that were melanoma, and some that were not cancer (benign skin lesions), to see how accurate it was. They compared this to the current standard 2 dimensional (2D) method of diagnosing melanoma.
The results of this trial show that
- Sensitivity is nearly 92% - this means that the Skin Analyser can correctly diagnose more than 9 out of 10 melanomas, nearly the same as the 2D method
- Specificity was over 76% - this means that it can correctly diagnose nearly 3 out of 4 non cancerous skin lesions, much more than the 1 out of 4 (26%) using the 2D method
The trial team concluded that the Skin Analyser 3D method of diagnosing malignant melanoma is more accurate than the 2D method.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Professor Lyndon Smith
Aralia Systems Limited
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
North Bristol NHS Trust
Technology Strategy Board (Department of Trade and Industry)
University of the West of England