Uses of non-invasive imaging in the diagnosis of skin cancer: an overview of the currently available modalities


  • Conflicts of interest: C.W. has no conflict of interest or financial disclosures. B.K.R. is a consultant for caliber ID.
  • Funding sources: No funding or other financial support was received for this project.
  • Both authors contributed to the construction of this work.



Emerging tools for the diagnosis of skin cancer are non-invasive imaging devices that allow for skin visualization without biopsy. While the capabilities of non-invasive imaging tools are far-reaching, each varies in its resolution depth, image clarity, clinical applicability, accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity.


The objective of this review is to evaluate non-invasive imaging modalities, and examine their capabilities, conditions for use, clinical applications, and limitations.

Materials and methods

A literature review was conducted on Pubmed using the search term “non-invasive diagnostic imaging tools and skin”. Relevant citations suggested by Pubmed were included. Each non-invasive imaging tool evaluated was also used as a search term along with the word “skin”.


While some tools are meant to be aids to histology like dermoscopy and optical coherence tomography, other tools, like confocal microscopy and tape stripping mRNA, show the potential to surpass histology and become the new “gold standard”. Experience with use of these instruments plays a large role in their utility value. While digital multispectral dermoscopy is able to generate a diagnosis, other tools like dermoscopy and confocal microscopy require learning and clinical experience.


A search was conducted using only one search engine. Only English language articles were considered.


How useful these tools are to dermatologists is dependent on their understanding of how the tools can aid them in diagnosis and their confidence in the results. Further research in this field will solidify non-invasive imaging tools as reliable tools in skin cancer diagnosis.