When it comes to moles and the risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, what you don’t know could hurt you—or worse. Early detection of melanoma, before it penetrates the skin’s deep layers, is crucial and can mean the difference between life and death. Two promising breakthroughs in laser technology may soon offer doctors more efficient, biopsy-free detection methods to diagnose malignant skin cancers with more accuracy than ever.

The Dermascanner, developed by German researchers as reported in Science Daily, May 2015, combines 2D scans with additional scanned 3D data to give doctors precise details to track the growth of every individual mole from several different positions. This software also has the ability to compare current images to existing earlier scans and pinpoint the exact location of every single mole.

Meanwhile, scientists in the UK and Italy have unveiled a new laser Doppler technique that tracks fluctuations in blood flow beneath the skin over a 30-minute period, as published in Scientific Reports in August 2015. The data enables researchers to differentiate between malignant melanoma and non-cancerous moles without a biopsy.

While these advances in early skin cancer detection are promising, more research is necessary before either laser method can be used in clinical practice. Be your own health advocate between doctor visits by watching out for suspicious moles, and ask someone you trust to check any on your back. Consider downloading Mole Mapper Melanoma Study, a free iPhone app, which allows users to track changes in their moles and share the data for research.

Of course, prevention is still the best medicine for sun-related skin diseases—and it begins with you. Limit sun exposure and make broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen part of your daily skincare routine. Opt for products that provide sun protection in addition to other benefits, like REDEFINE Triple Defense Treatment Broad Spectrum SPF 30 with powerful peptides to reduce the appearance of fine lines, or REVERSE Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ Sunscreen to help brighten dull skin that may be due to past sun damage.

*Information provided by Derm R+F