How Doctors are Shining New Light on Skin Cancer Diagnoses

UConn Health’s Dermatology Department is using new technology to diagnose skin cancer and reducing the number of patient biopsies

This article is sponsored by UConn Health. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Connecticut’s editorial staff. To learn more about UConn Health, visit

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States—but for doctors, diagnosis can sometimes be tricky.

With a revolutionary diagnosis tool, dermatologists at UConn Health are now able to go deeper under the surface—without actually breaking skin.

Using a reflectance confocal microscopy, doctors use safe, laser light to get a non-invasive look at patients’ skin cells. This groundbreaking technology is giving patients an easier and more comfortable alternative to invasive biopsies.

“I can’t imagine why somebody would have their body cut if they did not have to,” melanoma survivor Joan Needle said.

Several years ago, a biopsy showed that 77-year-old Needle had melanoma. But this spring, when doctors noticed a suspicious spot on her leg, she was able to avoid going under the knife.

“It’s absolutely painless,” Needle said. “There was no heat involved, no pain involved. Ten minutes later, I walked out of here; I was happy.”

And fortunately, the suspicious spot on her leg was just a sun spot.

Needle is just one of many patients at UConn Health who have been able to avoid invasive procedures for diagnoses. With the new technology, they’ve been able to reduce unnecessary biopsies by 60 percent, according to Vice Chair of Dermatology Dr. Jane Grant-Kels.

“We don’t hurt the patient,” Grant-Kels said. “We don’t break their skin. And this allows us to examine the skin on a cellular level without doing a biopsy.”

For Needle, the confocal technology was a painless way to get answers regarding her health.

“I’m grateful that I did not have melanoma, and I’m grateful that I’m going to a very fine doctor,” Needle said.

UConn Health is Connecticut’s only public academic medical center, combining the power of world-class research and innovation to develop the medical advances and doctors of tomorrow.

To learn more about dermatology services at UConn Health visit:

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