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posted on 23.04.2021, 13:33 by Alessia Blundo, Arianna Cignoni, Tommaso Banfi, Gastone Ciuti

Melanoma has the highest mortality rate among skin cancers, and early-diagnosis is essential to maximize survival rate. The current procedure for melanoma diagnosis is based on dermoscopy, i.e., a qualitative visual inspection of lesions with intrinsic limited diagnostic reliability and reproducibility. Other non-invasive diagnostic techniques may represent valuable solutions to retrieve additional objective information of a lesion. This review aims to compare the diagnostic performance of non-invasive techniques, alternative to dermoscopy, for melanoma detection in clinical settings. A systematic review of the available literature was performed using PubMed, Scopus and Google scholar databases (2010-September 2020). All human, in-vivo, non-invasive studies using techniques, alternative to dermoscopy, for melanoma diagnosis were included with no restriction on the recruited population. The reference standard was histology but dermoscopy was accepted only in case of benign lesions. Attributes of the analyzed studies were compared, and the quality was evaluated using CASP Checklist. For studies in which the investigated technique was implemented as a diagnostic tool (DTA studies), the QUADAS-2 tool was applied. For DTA studies that implemented a melanoma vs. other skin lesions classification task, a meta-analysis was performed reporting the SROC curves. Sixty-two references were included in the review, of which thirty-eight were analyzed using QUADAS-2. Study designs were: clinical trials (13), retrospective studies (10), prospective studies (8), pilot studies (10), multitiered study (1); the remain studies were proof of concept or had undefined study type. Studies were divided in categories based on the physical principle employed by each diagnostic technique. Twenty-nine out of thirty-eight DTA studies were included in the meta-analysis. Heterogeneity of studies' types, testing strategy, and diagnostic task limited the systematic comparison of the techniques. Based on the SROC curves, spectroscopy achieved the best performance in terms of sensitivity (93%, 95% CI 92.8–93.2%) and specificity (85.2%, 95%CI 84.9–85.5%), even though there was high concern regarding robustness of metrics. Reflectance-confocal-microscopy, instead, demonstrated higher robustness and a good diagnostic performance (sensitivity 88.2%, 80.3–93.1%; specificity 65.2%, 55–74.2%). Best practice recommendations were proposed to reduce bias in future DTA studies. Particular attention should be dedicated to widen the use of alternative techniques to conventional dermoscopy.

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