“A Decision Support System for the Early Diagnosis of Malignant Melanoma” (Greece – Israel) (MARK1)
Defined as a disease in which malignant, cancerous cells form in the skin cells that produce the pigment melanin, Melanoma is considered the most serious and most commonly fatal form of skin cancer. Over the past 4 decades, the incidence of melanoma increased by 800% among young women and 400% among young men. Malignant melanoma is nowadays one of the leading cancers among many white-skinned populations around the world, and it has recently dramatically increased mainly due to the changes in life styles and the significant increase in ultraviolet radiation as a result of ozone depletion. Estimates for 2013 indicate that 76.690 invasive melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States alone claiming 9480 lives, which translates to one death from melanoma every hour. The World Health Organisation has estimated that about 48.000 melanoma related deaths occur worldwide per year, while within the 27 countries of the European Union (EU-27), the highest malignant melanoma incidence rates (Age Standardised) are estimated to be in Sweden for males (approximately 22 cases per 100.000) and Denmark for females (approximately 26 cases per 100.000). These increased incident rates in the Nordic countries have been attributed to excessive sun exposure during holidays at lower latitudes.
Located in the Mediterranean region, with an average of more than 3000 hours of bright sunlight per year, both Greece and Israel suffer from increased risk of malignant melanomas’ due to overexposure to UV radiation. In particular, among Jewish males, the incidence rate increased from 12.2 per 100.000 men in 2000, to 13.9 per 100.000 in 2010 according to the Israel Cancer Association (ICA). A slight increase was also recorded among Jewish females.
While the mortality rate due to melanomas was about 70%, forty years ago, nowadays, a survival rate of 70% is claimed, which is attributed to early diagnosis. Studies suggest that the overall 5-year survival rate for patients, whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumour has spread to regional lymph nodes or other organs, is about 98% in the US. The survival rate falls to 62% when the disease reaches the lymph nodes, and to a mere 15% when the disease metastasizes to distant organs. Therefore, early stage detection of melanoma is of major significance for increasing chances of long term survival of affected patients. The most effective method for early detection is skin self-examination. The individual investigates skin changes, especially in moles (existing or new) and reports to the doctor when suspicious regions require consultation from the medical experts. However, it has been shown that skin self-examination is usually underestimated by individuals, resulting in poor prognosis. Melanoma detected in later stages, is extremely aggressive and deadly, resulting in patient suffering and increased mortality/morbidity. This has driven researchers to seek solutions in automated, early diagnosis of skin lesions and to render such procedures accessible to the general public. Recently, this need was addressed by applications on handheld devices, which however are in a preliminary stage of being employed to safely characterize skin lesions as part of routine self-examination. This urge for a reliable and easy to use early detection methodology comprised the driving force of the proposed project.
MEDISP’s participation at MARK1
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Status: In Progress