Can A Sticker Really Diagnose Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer, caused by a problem in the melanocytes in your skin (the pigment-producing cells). The exact cause of melanoma is not known, but some contributing factors include exposure to sun, fair skin, or a family history. Melanoma is known as the most concerning type of skin cancer because of its ability to spread to other organs in your body.

An annual check-up with a licensed dermatologist is the best way to evaluate possible pre-cancerous spots. However, it’s also advisable to monitor your skin yourself and look for moles or dark spots with an unusual appearance. The best way to monitor your skin for concerning spots is to use the “ABCDEs,” as described by the American Academy of Dermatology. If you notice a spot that has irregular borders, varied or changing colors, has a 6mm or larger diameter, or if the spot evolves in appearance over time, be sure to schedule an evaluation with a dermatologist.

Traditionally, concerning skin spots suspicious for melanoma would need to be biopsied or excised with a blade by a specialist and evaluated under the microscope by a pathologist to get a diagnosis. However, Dermtech has released a new SmartSticker solution that requires no needles and no blades to perform this same task.

The DermTech SmartSticker removes the top layer of skin, which is then analyzed for biomarkers of melanoma at the gene level. The stickers are 99% effective in determining a negative result.  To use, we simply clean the area of skin with an alcohol swab, apply the sticker and press in circles five times, outline the skin spot borders on top of the sticker with a permanent marker, and send the marked sticker or stickers to the DermTech lab.

With over 10 years of experience as a facial plastic surgeon on the Medstar Skin Cancer Team, I have seen too often how seriously melanoma can affect people’s lives. We are very excited to be offering the new DermTech SmartSticker technology at Medstar to help catch as many melanomas as early as possible.  This is a truly revolutionary technology!

Can A Sticker Really Diagnose Melanoma


To read about Susanne, one of my lovely patients, who underwent a successful removal of right cheek melanoma, continue reading my blog:
Melanoma Patient Story


With contributions from Ansha Janna Islam, Georgetown University School of Medicine MD Candidate 2023

Resources: American Academy of Dermatology, DermTech

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