Molecular Diagnostic Testing Gives Hope to Skin Cancer Patients

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) today recognized National Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May as a time to note the remarkable innovative advances in clinical laboratory testing for melanoma that are giving hope to patients struggling to combat this deadly cancer.

“Every year as spring turns into summer we hear the warnings about sun damage and the direct relationship to deadly skin cancers,” said Alan Mertz, President of the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA).  “We know that most of the mutations found in melanoma are from UV radiation. Now, thanks to precision diagnostic testing, physicians are able to match a person’s individual skin cancer to a specific therapy designed to eradicate it. Molecular diagnostic tests represent a major breakthrough in treating this all too often lethal cancer.”

While melanoma accounts for less than five percent of skin cancer cases, the rate of melanoma diagnoses has been steadily growing over the past 30 years and it is the cause for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014 there will be 76,100 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the U.S., resulting in about 9,710 deaths, more than from liver, kidney, brain and other nervous system cancers.  Secondary to the death toll, is the cost of treating advanced melanomas. In 2008, the National Cancer Institute found that if diagnosed early, dermatological removal of melanoma costs approximately $1,800 per patient. Treatment costs soar as the melanoma advances, rising to $170,000 per patient at the later stages and accounting for 90% of overall melanoma treatment costs.

America’s clinical labs, working to reverse the escalating rate of advanced melanomas, discovered the presence of a particular biomarker found in half of patients with metastatic melanoma, leading to a diagnostic test for that biomarker and a companion treatment. That test alone reverses the trial-and-error system of melanoma treatment, saves time for anxious patients who can be readily paired with effective therapies, and reduces costs to the healthcare system by avoiding unnecessary biopsies and ineffective treatments.

“Clinical laboratories provide the critical information needed for 70% of physician decisions and aid early diagnosis and treatment of chronic and deadly diseases that, when caught early, prevent years of increasing costs to the healthcare system,” said Mertz.  “Test by test, clinical labs are bringing certainty to more and more diagnoses and treatment decisions, which will continue to reduce healthcare costs over time and most importantly, continue to save lives.”

The ACLA is a not-for-profit association representing the nation’s leading national, regional, and esoteric clinical laboratories on key issues of common concern, including federal and state government reimbursement and regulatory policies. For more information, please visit or connect with ACLA on Twitter and Facebook.

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