How to check for skin cancer using your smartphone

Skin cancer is the most common type of disease in the U.S., as per the American Academy of Dermatology. However, like with every disease, early detection is what makes the difference. Early detection makes the skin cancer more treatable, and in some cases, completely reversible as well. But, to detect the disease at an early stage, you need to undergo regular checkups, which is sometimes rather difficult in our busy world. However now it has become much easier to detect skin cancer, and for that, you may not even need to visit your doctor as often. All you need is a smartphone and skin cancer apps.

Skin cancer: important facts

Before we detail how to check skin cancer with a smartphone, you need to know important facts about this potentially fatal disease. As per skincancer.org, more than two people die per hour in the U.S. because of skin cancer.

Over four million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. It is estimated that about 200,000 people received a melanoma diagnosis last year. Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer and accounts for about 10,000 deaths each year. The risk of melanoma increases if you have had five or more sunburns, but if it is detected early, the five-year survival rate is 99%.

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There can be several factors leading to skin cancer, such as UV exposure, exposure to toxic chemicals, genetics and more. The following are the symptoms of skin cancer: a change in size or color of a mole, persistent itchiness or tenderness, and pigmentation spreading outside the mole.

Now that you have some idea about skin cancer, let’s talk about how to check skin cancer with a smartphone. Over the last few years, developers have made available skin cancer apps that help in diagnosing skin disease. The functions of these apps may vary, such as some help you to send photos to a dermatologist, using artificial intelligence to analyze skin, offering feedback, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, setting reminders and more.

How to check skin cancer with a smartphone

Before you select any app, you will want to understand its functions, how it can help you, and whether or not you actually need it. To make things easier for you, we have listed below some of the popular apps that can help you to check skin cancer with a smartphone:

UMSkinCheck – it is a free app (both iOS and Android) from the University of Michigan that guides users to do a home skin self-exam. The app provides step-by-step guidance along with graphics and written instructions on how to check for skin cancer.  Also, the app allows users to store and track any skin changes over time. You can also set reminders for a skin check and access informational videos and articles, as well as use a melanoma risk calculator.

Mole Mapper – the app has been developed by Oregon Health & Science University and is more of a tracking tool than a diagnostic tool. One can use the app to take photos and even take measurements of the moles. Similar to UMSkinCheck, you can use this app to track changes over time.

MoleScope – it is not an app, rather a high-resolution camera that is compatible with many smartphone models. This camera uses a special lens to take detailed images of the moles. It must be noted that MoleScope won’t itself analyze or diagnose the moles, rather you will have to use the ABCD guide in the app to track anything suspicious. You can also use it to send photos of your mole to a dermatologist. Other unique features of MoleScope are skin mapping, image management and regular reminders.

SkinVision – it is one of the best skin cancer apps to diagnose high-risk moles. This app ranks the photos you upload as either high or low risk using deep learning. Thereafter, it also guides you on the next step that you need to take. The uploaded photos are analyzed using a machine-learning algorithm that is based on a technology called convolutional neural network (CNN).

Miiskin – this app makes use of mole mapping to analyze the skin. Dermatologists use a similar technique as well to catch any symptoms that may not be visible to their eyes. Similar to other apps, you can take a picture of the moles and track changes over time. Also, you can opt for a paid version that allows you to track more skin area. The app is compatible with iPhones running on iOS 10 or newer and Android 4.4 or newer.

A point to note is that though these skin cancer apps are useful, they must not be seen as a replacement to a dermatologist or an actual biopsy. Rather, you can use these apps in addition to, or as a support to your routine checkups.