Early detection of skin cancer could be the difference between a simple mole removal or several rounds of chemotherapy, but now your phone can help you recognize suspicious moles and marks, but you should still see a dermatologist about concerns.
Your skin can get no matter what time of year, no matter what the weather. Skin cancer accounts for more diagnoses each year than all other cancers, but the good news is that early detection could be malignant cancer that spreads to other parts of the body.
A handful of smartphone apps and devices claim to aid early detection and keep you on track with regular self-exams. You can capture photos of nuisance moles or marks and track them yourself, or send them off to a dermatologist for evaluation.
Symptoms of all types of skin cancers include:
- Appearance of a shiny pink, red, pearly, or translucent bump.
- Pink skin growths or lesions with raised borders that are crusted in the center.
- A raised reddish patch of skin that may crust or itch, but is usually not painful.
- A white, yellow, or waxy area with a poorly defined border that may resemble a scar.
Your phone can help you spot skin cancer
Over the last several years, a handful of skin cancer detection applications popped up allowing you to analyze your skin with your smartphone and artificial intelligence algorithms.
Miiskin uses a mole mapping to analyze your skin. Dermatologists perform mole maps as part of a clinical full-body skin exam, using digital dermoscopy to catch suspicious lesions they may not catch with their own eyes.
Because they’re so high-definition, dermoscopy photos provide much more information than normal digital photos. The developers behind Miiskin wanted to offer a version of this technology to consumers, so they built an app that takes magnified photos of large areas of your skin, for example, your entire leg.
Note: According to the website, anyone with an iPhone iOS 10 or a phone running Android 4.4 can use Miiskin. The app stores your photos separately from your smartphone library and allows you to compare moles over time, which is helpful in detecting changes.
This app comes from researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) school of medicine and allows you to complete a full-body skin cancer self-exam, as well as create and track a history of moles, growths and lesions.
The app guides you step-by-step on how to complete the exam with graphics and written instructions. UMSkinCheck also comes with access to informational videos and articles, as well as a melanoma risk calculator.
Note: UMSkinCheck also sends push reminders to encourage people to follow-up on their self-exams and check on the lesions or moles they are tracking. You can decide how often you want to see those reminders in the app.
Like Miiskin, MoleScope uses magnified images to help people determine whether they should see a dermatologist get their skin checked.
A product of MetaOptima (a supplier of clinical dermatology technology) MoleScope is a device that attaches to your smartphone and sends photos to a dermatologist for an online checkup.
Note: MoleScope itself won’t analyze or diagnose your moles, you can use the ABCD guide in the app to keep tabs on any suspicious moles. The app helps you document your moles with photos and sends them to a dermatologist, who can assess them using the guided method:
- Asymmetry: the shape of one half doesn’t match the other
- Border: edges are bumpy, ragged or blurred
- Color: uneven shades of brown, black and tan; odd colors such as red or blue
- Diameter: a change in size greater than 6 mm
Unlike Miiskin, you can only take photos of one mole or small areas with a few moles, rather than large areas like your entire chest or back.
SkinVision claims to aid early detection of melanoma. The app uses deep learning to analyze photos of your skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer. The photos are processed through a machine-learning algorithm that filters image layers based on simple, complex, and more abstract functions and patterns through a technology called convolutional neural network (CNN). SkinVision uses it to check small areas of your skin and come back with a high- or low-risk assessment of that area in less than a minute.
SkinVision is backed by a scientific board of dermatologists, but Dr. Daniel Friedmann, a dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas, told CNET that even an app with prominent support of scientists has limitations.