By Lisa Sigell

STUDIO CITY ( — Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and the American Academy of Dermatology says every hour one person in the U.S. will die from its deadliest form, melanoma.

Now, CBS2’s Lisa Sigell reports a high-tech device hopes to change those numbers.

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You may wonder how technology used to defend our country to spot and target deadly missiles has now been adapted to spot a deadly target on our skin.

“Some of the brightest minds in the world worked on this, they worked on the ‘Star Wars’ project of the 80s, they were rocket scientists,” said dermatologist Dr. Gene Rubinstein.

That effort has resulted in Mela-Find, a state-of-the-art instrument to spot potential skin cancer, a tool that Dr. Rubenstein has called a “game-changer”.

In his Studio City office, Dr. Rubenstein is examining Melinda Bentz, who’s already had one mole removed and is now concerned about others.

“Skin cancer runs in my family,” said Bentz.

The device takes a painless image of each mole, looking deep in the layers of the skin to give the doctor a three-dimensional view. It will show him how irregular each mole is and assign a number low to high – the higher the number, the more concern.

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MelaFind compares each mole to 10,000 others in the system, giving it a ranking and invaluable information.

“We’re going to know the obvious melanomas, but it’s the ones that are in the grey area that we either decide to biopsy or not,” said Rubenstein. “This technology provides us answer.”

While the mole on Melinda’s leg didn’t warrant a biopsy, there was one on her back that caught Dr. Rubenstein’s attention.

“I would definitely biopsy, but really, with the naked eye, it doesn’t look like much,” he said. “They look identical, but amazingly, this turned out to be more asymmetrical when we were able to look at it under the skin.”

Out of three moles, Melinda only have to have one biopsied, but without Mela-Find, the doctor said he may have done more biopsies, which can be unnecessary, painful and costly.

“It’s just an amazing tool,” Rubenstein said.

When diagnosed in its earliest stages, melanoma is highly curable. Dr. Rubenstein recommends an annual skin exam, and if you notice new or changing moles, see a physician right away.

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