Image of brown skin lesion with boundaries automatically detected, shown by a yellow outline and hair shown as green lines.

CSIRO imaging technology helps SolarScan assess skin lesion features, like shape.

Better melanoma diagnosis with SolarScan™

CSIRO's image analysis software for detecting melanoma is built into SolarScan™, which could improve survival rates for patients with melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer.

  • 14 June 2005 | Updated 4 October 2012

Australians enjoy a great outdoor lifestyle - but it comes at a price.

Melanoma, linked to excess exposure to the sun's UV rays, is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, killing more than 1 000 Australians each year.

Fortunately, melanoma can be easily cured if detected early. However, to date only highly trained specialists could reliably assess whether a skin lesion is a melanoma.

SolarScan™ is designed to be used by general practitioners (GPs) to provide expert assistance in diagnosing melanoma.

What CSIRO did

Image analysis researchers at CSIRO helped Australian medical instrumentation company, Polartechnics Ltd, develop SolarScan™, along with one of the world's leading melanoma experts at the Sydney Melanoma Unit.

CSIRO contributed the image analysis software that helps SolarScan™ determine whether a patient's spot is likely to be a melanoma. The software extracts and measures features considered by skin cancer experts to be important indicators of melanoma.

"We found that the world-best expertise was in our own backyard at CSIRO."
Mr Victor Skladnev,
Polartechnics Ltd

The device works by capturing an image of a patient's skin spot using an object shaped like a hairdryer with a built-in surface microscope.

Image analysis software removes extraneous things from the image like hairs and oil bubbles and analyses the spot's features such as its shape and colour.

In creating the software, CSIRO image analysis researchers drew on their expertise in automatically extracting meaningful numerical information from complex images. Their skills include:

  • image segmentation
  • feature extraction
  • statistical analysis of extracted features
  • colour calibration.

Mr Victor Skladnev, CEO of Polartechnics Ltd said, ‘In developing its skin cancer detection product, SolarScan™, Polartechnics required leading edge image analysis expertise to complement its own research group. After reviewing expertise around the world, we found that the world-best expertise was in our own backyard at CSIRO.'

The outcomes

SolarScan™ is now used in skin cancer clinics and GPs' surgeries in Australia and overseas.

It assists doctors in making a correct diagnosis and detecting melanoma early so that lives can be saved.

SolarScan™ also helps avoid the unnecessary removal of harmless lesions.

SolarScan™ was launched by The Hon Peter McGauran MP (former Australian Federal Government Science Minister), in 2002 at Bondi Beach in Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Since then, Polartechnics have sold more than 80 devices with export markets in Europe and the USA.

In 2005 Polartechnics (jointly with Sydney Melanoma Diagnostic Centre and CSIRO) were awarded one of the six Australian Engineering Excellence Awards (AEEA) for the SolarScan™ skin cancer screening system.

About the scientists

CSIRO team members include:

  • Dr Mark Berman
  • Mr Richard Beare
  • Ms Leanne Bischof
  • Mr Ryan Lagerstrom
  • Dr Mike Buckley
  • Dr Volker Hilsenstein
  • Dr Paul Jackway
  • Mr Vijay Lakshmanan
  • Dr Changming Sun
  • Dr Pascal Vallotton.

Learn more about Doing Business with CSIRO.

  • SolarScan™ is the registered trademark of Polartechnics Ltd in Australia, the European Union and the USA.