Skin Cancer: Is There an App for That?
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting an estimated one in every five Americans (American Academy of Dermatology). Although melanoma is one of the most serious types of skin cancer, it is also highly preventable and treatable if caught early. This is why dermatologists have long stressed the importance of scheduling annual visits for preventative screening.
Now, modern technology may be changing the way that we currently screen for skin cancer, potentially helping to save even more lives. Read on to learn more about the smartphone app that could help you to have access to a round-the-clock dermatologist when performing a self exam at home.
How Does It Work?
According to extensive research published in and featured on the cover of Nature, a mobile application may have the ability to help users spot potential cancerous lesions. In the study, a computer was fed 129,450 clinical images of various types of both benign and cancerous skin lesions along with the diagnosis of those lesions. The computer software was able to use this “deep learning” to learn to recognize and diagnose skin lesions. Although this technology will never replace dermatologists or annual skin exams, it can be a wonderful screening tool. Melanoma is a deadly skin cancer that is completely curable when diagnosed early. Tools such as these that use artificial intelligence to screen skin lesions for deadly cancers are here to stay. The technology in this article is not (to my knowledge) yet available on the market outside of a research setting. More studies need to be done before these applications are in mainstream use but smartphone apps like this could be an invaluable resource in the ongoing mission to help people detect melanoma and other skin cancers as early as possible for the best possible outcomes.
Do You Still Need to See Your Dermatologist?
Yes!!! While taking advantage of breakthrough technology like this model for a mobile app can be hugely beneficial to your skin’s health, this doesn’t eliminate the need to check in with your dermatologist at least yearly. In addition to skin cancer screening, you should discuss issues with your doctor such as the best sunscreens for your Baumann Skin Type and preventative skincare and supplements.
Understanding the ABCDEs of Melanoma
Whether or not you have access to an app that can help you detect possible precancerous moles, you should be performing regular self-exams of your skin. That way, if you do spot a problem, you can show your dermatologist right away for an accurate diagnosis and possible treatment if needed.
When scanning your body for moles, look for the “ABCDEs” of melanoma:
- Borders that are irregular
- Color that varies from one part of the mole to another
- Diameters that are larger than the size of a pencil eraser
- Evolution, or change, in any of these characteristics over time
While you’re looking for any abnormal moles or lesions, it’s also a good idea to create a mole map by recording where on your body each mole is located. This is another great use of your smart phone for skin cancer detection! Taking periodic photos of your moles can help you detect changes early and If you do need to show something to your dermatologist, you’ll easily be able to find it and explain what has changed.
The Bottom Line
There’s no doubting the fact that ongoing technological advances create new and improved methods for staying on top of our health, including helping to catch skin cancer in its early stages for optimal treatment. Still, following basic skincare guidelines like using a daily sunscreen, performing self-exams, and seeing your dermatologist regularly are some of the best ways to maintain happy, healthy skin.
If you have concerns about what type of sunscreen you should use for your unique Baumann Skin Type, or if you notice any changes in your moles, be sure to get in touch with your dermatologist.
Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through Derm.net.