Skin Cancer Screening at Your Fingertips

Each year, more than 2 million Americans face a new diagnosis of skin cancer. Some 50,000 patients receive a diagnosis of melanoma. Regular skin checks, however, can assist in discovering melanoma at its earliest stages.

To facilitate regular skin checks, a new app was developed at the University of Michigan Health System. It allows users to create a photographic baseline of their skin, photograph suspicious moles or other skin lesions, all while examining their own skin step-by-step. The app, UMSkinCheck, also sends automatic reminders to give users the ability to monitor changes to a skin lesion over time. For comparisons, pictures of various types of skin cancers are provided. The app is free and designed for the iPhone and iPad.

Michael Sabel, MD, associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School and the lead physician involved in developing the app, says, “Whole body photography is a well-established resource for following patients at risk for melanoma. However, it requires a professional photographer, is not always covered by insurance, and can be an inconvenience. Now that many people have digital cameras on their phones, it’s more feasible to do this at home.”

The app assists users with examining their body from head to toe via a series of 23 photos stored within the app that serve as a baseline for future comparisons. If a mole appears to be changing or growing, the photos can then be shared with a dermatologist to help determine whether a biopsy is necessary.

The app creates a reminder to repeat a skin self-exam on a regular basis. It also includes a risk calculator that allows you to input your personal data to calculate your individual risk.

According to Sabel, patients with fair skin or who burn easily, who have had sunburns in the past or used tanning beds, or who have a family history of melanoma, are considered high-risk, and self-exams are even more important. “We recommend skin self-exams for everyone in order to detect skin cancer at the earliest stages, when treatment is less invasive and more successful,” Sabel says.

Source: University of Michigan Health System.

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Last modified: April 27, 2020