A new app coming out of the University of Michigan Health System offers users step by step instructions on performing a baseline skin examination at home. By taking a series of 23 pictures which cover the body from head to toe, the app provides a detailed baseline for future comparisons, as well as providing images of various types of skin cancer to demonstrate the sort of thing we’re looking for. If you forget to take regular photo updates, it’ll even give you a reminder to get snapping.
How does it work?
Full body photography has been a consistent method of identifying skin cancer for a number of years, but it tends to require a skilled photographer and a fairly generous insurance policy to cover it. These costs add up, and so less and less people are willing to shell out for a check.
UmSkinCheck exploits the rapidly improving camera quality on mobile phones to simplify the process. When photos are taken, they are stored in the app to serve as tools for comparison and can be easily shared with a dermatologist if worries arise.
The app also includes a risk calculator, which prompts you to input some personal data to calculate your risk of developing a condition – the team say that those who have recently been sunburnt or used a tanning bed are at particular risk, as are those with a family history of melanoma.
How common is skin cancer?
Lately we’ve seen a number of apps addressing the diagnosis of skin cancer, and this is because a reported 2 million Americans alone are reported to develop some form of it – making it the most common type of cancer today. Of this number, 50,000 cases are melanoma – the most serious form and one whereby early detection is vital.
How can I get the app?
The best news is that the app is completely free from the app store, but the bad news is that at present it’s only available on iPhones and iPads. The team behind development are yet to comment on whether it will later be released onto other platforms such as Android, but when technology is addressing such a serious problem it would seem surprising if it were limited to the few who can afford to pay premium prices. Commonly, such apps address the biggest market first (the iTunes store) and then progress onto smaller ones from there – so i wouldn’t be surprised to see it elsewhere soon.
It should be stressed though that whether you have the app or not it should not act as a replacement for a professional diagnosis – a trip to the doctors is always best if you’re concerned, and UmSkinCheck was developed to work alongside the experts, not instead of them.