Treatment for melanoma and other skin cancers has the best chance of success when started in the disease’s early stages. That means early detection is essential. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant decrease in the number of skin biopsies performed, especially among older adults, creating a backlog in crucial diagnoses. DermTech has introduced a new system that lets patients take skin cell samples at home. The user-friendly sticker test could reduce that backlog and help individuals get faster care for melanoma.

Even though it is called a “smart sticker” by its creators, what’s smart about the at-home test isn’t the sticker itself but rather its simplicity. The adhesive patch makes it easy for individuals without medical training to collect usable skin cell samples under their provider’s supervision. Clinicians can also use the sticker to collect samples on-site for faster diagnosis without an invasive procedure.

When pressed against a suspicious mole or skin discoloration, the sticker collects cellular tissue. The sample is then pressed on a collection strip and shipped to DermTech’s laboratory. DermTech uses molecular genetic RNA and DNA analysis to detect signs of melanoma. According to DermTech, this genetic analysis can be more accurate at identifying early-stage melanoma than a traditional biopsy, with less than 1% of sticker tests missing the presence of the disease.

Because melanoma is potentially fatal, DermTech’s solution could potentially save lives. While it may not replace a biopsy, verification of the test’s accuracy could lead to the sticker becoming the gold standard in melanoma screening.